Raising a Sensitive Child

Raising a sensitive child

Some years ago, I read ‘Raising Your Spirited Child’ and learned that my then 3 year old was ‘spirited’ in the sense that she was highly sensitive (she scored very high on this) and also slow to adapt to change.

That pattern in her life has continued, and despite efforts by others to change her (and also my own misguided efforts at times), my husband and I now see these characteristics as a blessing, and that these traits are woven into her being as a unique expression of a loving and creative God.  She is highly imaginative, creative, discerning, empathetic, feels things deeply, is easily upset, and is also super bright and somewhat of a perfectionist just to add even more to the mix.

I was a sensitive child and know how it was to be belittled and teased for being so.  When I see my daughter treated this way, particularly by those who are supposed to be her greatest cheerleaders, it does more than grieve my heart.  In response to her sensitive nature, adults who should know better have responded in ways that would make your jaw drop.  I know I need to ensure that I don’t react to others in fear, and am trying to walk in wisdom and faith in how I guide and instruct her along with my husband.

Now as an adult, I’m easily moved by the plight of the suffering and the Lord has given me a compassion that often moves my faith into action. The seed of this was always there in the child me.  I’m glad for who the Lord has created me to be and hope I can be faithful to what he has entrusted me with.  I see so many similarities in my daughter, and look forward to seeing how this will blossom and grow as she matures.

Guidance, Grace and Others

As a child I had no-one who really recognised sensitivity as a gift or embraced it as something positive or desirable.  I’ve been determined with my deeply sensitive child that she would know that God loves and values who she is and so do we as her parents.  Her sensitivity needs loving direction at times, and sometimes we need to help her not to invest her heart so unreservedly where the resting place for it is not ready for such an outpouring, or where that place may not be appropriate to.  She loves deeply and wholeheartedly, but also potentially can wound deeply.  I adore who she is.

As parents, we are uniquely positioned to have insight and understanding into our children, and therefore be able to offer grace and guidance that others will not be capable of.  I can recall many times where my sensitive child has been working through a painful experience, or issues of her heart, and the process has looked less than tidy.  My husband and I, although not always getting it right, are far better equipped to bring grace and guidance than someone outside of our family unit who may be more concerned about correcting behaviour and/or reacting with disapproval to what they see.

This is the challenge we have found in the way we parent, where for us the long term goal of shepherding the heart is of more concern than the short term correction of less than desirable behaviours, many of which are unresolved issues surfacing or simply God-given traits that are still unrefined and the ‘seed’ of what will eventually grow and mature.

I’d like to encourage you to consider who you allow to speak into your sensitive child’s life, and to what measure you extend the invitation to various people.  Keep watch over this impressionable time in their lives.  Surround them with caring adults and children who see sensitivity as a wonderful way to be, and who affirm them their with words and actions.

Here are a handful of tips that have helped us with our sensitive child:

  • Lovingly affirm and accept them, and embrace their sensitivity as a gift.
  • Discipline in a gentle way that does not hinder your connection.
  • Create an environment where there is peace.
  • Work with your child in training them to get them through difficulties, rather than just telling them to get over it or work it out themselves.
  • Discover how they give and receive love, and lavish your love freely in these areas.
  • Enjoy their strengths, talents, and gifts, and provide them with opportunities to focus on these.
  • Be patient and allow them ALL their childhood to grow and mature in their unique personality and temperament!  Don’t pressure them or place unreasonable expectations on them.  Above all, show grace.

As they grow, you will see them be and do incredible things.  Provide opportunities for them to love greatly and give of their hearts to a needy world.  You’ll be amazed at what they can accomplish with a loving hand behind them.

Here are some great books that you might like read:

Other books on parenting:

{Shared at Time Warp Wife Titus 2sday Link-up}

18 thoughts on “Raising a Sensitive Child

  1. Jessica

    Thanks for your perspective on this 🙂 It can be so tempting to want to change your child’s personality into something a little less complicated or demanding…or different from yours. I’m beginning to learn about extroverts and introverts and seeing the differences in my kids–learning to support the way God made them instead of trying to change it. I think it might be time to read about the sensitive child too.

  2. thehomeschoolingdoctor

    Great post. I enjoyed it. I have one daughter that I’ve learned I can say exactly the same “correctional” thing–but if I speak in a “tizzy” she “turtles up.” If I say it in a soft, soothing voice, she is exceptionally receptive! Same words, different tone. Different response. (Even when she knows I’m “faking it” and I’m very frustrated, speaking softly and soothingly keeps her trying and not withdrawing!) Aren’t these kids and this opportunity great?! God bless you and your family!

  3. mwfinchwren

    Good morning, Victoria!
    What a lovely post. You could have been describing our son as well as your own little one! I was recently reminded of the importance of raising our boy according to his bent by a personality survey for children I’m reviewing for TOS Crew. I THOUGHT he was much more like me than he actually is….and from this survey I’ve learned that the way I guide and discipline him is really more suited to MY bent than his bent. How kind the Lord was to point this out to me. I’m so thankful that we have a loving Father who parents us as we parent our own children!


  4. G'ma Becca

    So true. I have a son who is a sensitive soul, and was such a joy to our family! As you love, guide, and build them up, these wonderful little people become wonderful big people. He is now married to a woman who loves who he is, and they make a great team!

  5. S H

    This is so validating! My little one loves everyone she meets and I found your explanation at the beginning (“Her sensitivity needs loving direction at times, and sometimes we need to help her not to invest her heart so unreservedly where the resting place for it is not ready for such an outpouring,”) really helped my clarify what my approach should be with her and her relationships.
    Her open heart amazes me.

    1. homemakingwithheart

      Thank you. Yes we need to help bring some guidance in this area don’t we? But at the same time not shutting down their open hearts with fear and control. I’m not sure my husband and I get it completely right, but we’re sure trying to seek the Lord for wisdom in how we shepherd her heart. 🙂

  6. Rebeca Jones

    Just one of the many reasons I love homeschooling. I have the opportunity to truly study each of my children’s unique ‘bents’. Whether sensitive, introvert, extrovert, talkative, language challenged, etc. we must learn how to best guide each personality toward a vibrant walk with our Jesus. Then they will be able to flourish within the gifts and talents He has given them. Wonderful post!

  7. compelledbymel

    My oldest is this. It was encouraging to read articles that showed that he was not weird or a freak of nature, but that God gave him this unique gift for a purpose. It was also encouraging to read about adults having it because you realize that either you or your spouse could have this too if you child has it. Great tips and necessary!

  8. Carla

    This is a wonderful post! I also have a sensitive child and I sometimes wonder if perhaps I should “toughen her up” before she meets some true disaster in the “real world,” but I always come back to the fact that her sensitivity is an essential part of who she is…and she is beautiful!

    1. Victoria Post author

      Carla you are SO right! This is the way she is woven together and she will be amazing in a world that desperately needs a gentle, compassionate, sensitive heart moving amongst it. It’s our job to teach them how to walk in that world with that sensitivity, not stop them from being the way they naturally are. 🙂
      Thanks for stopping by – Victoria


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