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Why Your Child Loses It: Understanding Your Child's Temperament

4. Intensity: How strong are your child's emotional reactions?

not easily frustrated

quickly stops crying

others may not even know this child is upset

not easily upset

      becomes frustrated easily and fiercely

can cry for forty-five minutes over a seemingly insignificant issue

experiences every emotion deeply and powerfully

becomes upset quickly and unexpectedly

1 2 3 4 5
mild reactions       intense reactions

High-Intensity
Children who experience intense emotional reactions are not necessarily loud; in fact, some intense children focus their intensity inward. You can "feel" the emotion radiating from them. They experience every emotion deeply and physiologically. Stress hormones move swiftly and easily through their bodies, and they produce lower levels of soothing agents. As a result they get upset more easily and stay upset longer.

That's why the advice to ignore a child's strong reaction doesn't work. He's not trying to manipulate you. He truly experiences every emotion as a powerful jolt. Kids who experience intense emotional reactions triggered and pulled into power struggles when their feelings ignored or when your intensity fuels theirs.

Intensity reflects a zeal for life. It's essential that kids who are more intense learn how to monitor their emotions closely and discover what soothes and calms them. Clear standards, enforced and modeled you, are a must! Help them find outlets for the passion that lies wit them through sports or the arts.

Kids who experience strong emotional reactions need words and phrases like:

  • You experience strong feelings.
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Put your hand on your heart. Is it beating slowly or quickly?
  • Can you feel the volcano inside of you bubbling?
  • Take a break and then try again.
Mild Reactions
Children who experience mild reactions don't often pull you into power struggles. They're mellow kids who roll with the punches, which means their needs may go unnoticed. That's why it is important to teach them to recognize their emotions and express them clearly.

Kids who experience mild reactions need to hear words and phrases like:

  • If that is important to you, it is okay to clearly let others know.
  • I will make sure that I plan to spend time with you.


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From the book KIDS, PARENTS, AND POWER STRUGGLES: Winning for a Lifetime by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, published by HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. Copyright 2000 by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka. All rights reserved.

Buy the book at www.harpercollins.com.


August 31, 2014



Leftovers make deliciously healthy lunches, and save a lot of time. Use last night's dinner leftovers as the basis of your child's lunch — adding just one or two extra ingredients can make it seem like an entirely different meal.


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