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Too Sensitive or Analytical: How We Make Decisions

3. Reassure Them That They're Liked
In order to perform their best, feeling kids need to know they're liked. That's why building a relationship with your feeling child is essential for winning his cooperation. Yelling at him, getting tough, or criticizing doesn't work. These children need a gentle touch, positive words, and the reassurance that they have done well. Your disapproval saddens them and may actually stop them from performing. They need to hear that you love them, empathize with them, and care before they are ready to listen to your advice.

"Oh, that's why teaching my son how to tie his shoe was so different from working with my daughter," Suzanne exclaimed in class. "I matter-of-factly taught my daughter to make a loop, wrap it around, pull through. She practiced and pushed herself to learn. But my son fussed through the entire lesson. He turned away and moaned that it was too hard. When I stopped and said, 'It's all right, you'll learn. It's kind of scary, but you have time,' he started to practice. First he had to know that I wouldn't get angry at him. When he knew he had my support, making a loop was easy. After he learned to tie, he came running to me and exclaimed, 'I can tie my shoes and I can help others because I know there's lots of kids who don't know how to tie yet.'" The feeling child needs to know you like him before he's ready to perform for you.

If feeling children think their teacher doesn't appreciate them, they're likely to be so stressed that focusing and performing can be very challenging. In school, feeling kids need a harmonious climate, lots of positive feedback, personal greetings, group projects that children work on as a team rather than competing, and opportunities to change the rules if enforcing them would hurt someone's feelings.

4. Teach How to Be Assertive
Feeling kids value harmony as a very valuable trait, but sometimes that desire for harmony can make it difficult for them to assert their own needs. That's what happened to David.

"You're describing my son!" Bob exclaimed in class. "Last week I told the kids that they could pick out a bag of candy. My daughter Megan asked David what he wanted."

"I don't care," he said, "as long as it doesn't have nuts in it."

"How about chocolate kisses?" Megan continued.

"That's fine," David replied. "Everybody loves chocolate."

"No, we'd get more pieces if we bought red licorice," Megan replied, "and they won't melt."

"Sure," David answered. "Everyone would like having as many pieces as they wanted."

"Oh, look, here's peanut butter cups. They're on sale!" Megan squealed in excitement. She turned, holding a bag of licorice in one hand and the peanut butter cups in the other. "Which ones do you want to get?" she asked David.

"I don't care; you can decide," he answered.

But Megan knew that wasn't entirely true. David didn't like peanut butter, either. If she picked peanut butter cups, he wouldn't like them, even if they didn't have nuts in them. She tried to push him to be more specific.

"I really don't care," he protested. "Really!"

"But you do and you're not standing up for yourself!" she retorted and turned to complain to her father, "If he won't stand up for himself, he won't get what he really wants."

It may be that David is getting what he wants. Maybe he doesn't care about the candy as much as he cares about harmony with his sister. If that's true, then it really doesn't matter what kind of candy they buy; but if he does prefer one over the other, then David needs his dad's help learning that he can assert his own needs and still live and work harmoniously with others. His dad might teach him to say, "Let's check our budget and see if we could buy two smaller bags of candy so we could each choose our favorites." Or, "The licorice gives us more pieces and is cheaper even if it isn't on sale." By learning to be a creative problem solver, David can learn to solve problems in a way that maintains harmony and allows him to assert his own feelings and needs.

As you coach your feeling child, teach him that it's important to be honest about his emotions. Help him to choose words that will "feel" right yet truly express his feelings. Explain that it is helpful if he addresses an issue before he is really angry about it because sometimes he waits too long, then moves right into being aggressive instead of being assertive. Let him know, too, that sometimes a bit of "disharmony" can actually lead to greater harmony and better decisions when we're honest with our feelings and solve problems together.

5. Teach Them to Look at the Facts
The best decisions consider both feelings and facts. Once you've helped your child to explore her own feelings and brainstormed solutions that would feel right for everyone involved, try saying something like, "I have some other thoughts, would you like to hear them? Or once she's had a chance to vent her feelings, then ask, "What do you think?" Use this phrase as an opening to go back and review the fad with her. Help her to analyze the logic of potential solutions so that her final decisions include feelings and facts.

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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.


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