Parenting a Child with a Sensitive Ear
In this blog post I continue discussing disciplining sensitive children. This time we’ll have a look at children with a Sensitive Ear.
(Missed something? Read about Sensitive Children and Parenting the Sensitive Child (1))
These children are very sensitive to what they hear. They listen to how something was said and not necessarily what was said. Try to speak in normal tones with these children, because raised voices, high pitched voices or loud booming voices physically scare them into stress.
They immediately interpret a loud voice and anger and think that he/she is the cause of that emotion. So if you come home from work and is upset about something a colleague did, keep your voice calm when you tell the story to your sensitive ear child (or partner!), otherwise he/she will probably not hear a word you say - they will worry about why you are angry with them.
This can cause problem with disciplining because, let’s face it, it’s hard to keep your cool when you’re angry or when a child broke your crystal vase from Venice.
Try and see it from the child’s perspective: you are yelling or talking with a raised, angry voice and the child shuts down, not hearing what you are saying, but understanding that you are very angry.
They will probably cry, because they don’t like people being angry at them, but chances are that they don’t know what they did wrong, increasing the chances of repeating that same offence.
A better way of dealing with disciplining is to take a deep breath, count to ten, and ask the child to go to his/her bedroom (or whatever room you have chosen for time out). That gives you time to gather your senses and cool down (keep it under 5min) so that when you go to the child, you can explain calmly in a neutral voice what he/she has done wrong and why you consider it to be wrong. Also talk about punishment for that behaviour in the same normal tone of voice.
This prevents the child from crawling into an emotional hole like a frightened kitten and opens up a chance for discussion and deeper relationship. As the child gets older, this is very important for forming a bond with your teenager who is normally quite detached from parents.
Children with a sensitive eye also flourish under verbal recognition.
Having trouble getting your child to make the bed? Tip: Say in a warm, friendly tone that Mommy will be so proud if he/she makes his/her bed (or whatever chore). When the child does complete the chore, give ample verbal encouragement (don’t be too loud or high-pitched!). The chances of that child doing that chore again, is very good when he/she gets the encouragement and attention they want.
And keep up the encouragement! Until you are sure that the behaviour is imprinted, keep on making a big deal about a chore well done. You can scale it down later as you start concentrating on a different chore.
The flip side is what parents revert to by default: yell when it is not done. Negative attention is still attention and although the child gets scared when you raise your voice, it may count as recognition and will be counterproductive.
Rather concentrate on what is being done well and ask in friendly tones when you and the child are not rushed or busy to complete a previously ignored chore.
Another thing to keep in mind is when giving instructions to these kids, give instructions one at a time instead of a whole list, eg. “Please bring me the milk”, instead of “Please bring me the milk, 2 eggs, bread and salt.” With a list the child is likely to get confused and forget something. One at a time works best for children with a dominant left ear.