"Sensitive" Kids

By: akmom
January 24th, 2015
8:57 pm

"Sensitive" Kids

What does it mean when a parent says that their child is sensitive? I hear this reference as a positive thing. I just kind of assume that a "sensitive" person is one who is understanding of others' needs, possibly more than the typical child their age. But I think parents are using this as a euphemism for whiny kids. Because the kind of "sensitive" that I'm seeing is the kind that will have a meltdown any time they don't get their way.

Yesterday I was supervising some kids who were playing rock-paper-scissors to pass the time. One kid suddenly starts bawling at the top of his lungs. He's 8. So I thought, oh crap, he got hurt. Nope. When I asked what happened, he said, "I NEVER win!!"

I said, "Seriously? You're going to cry about losing at rock-paper-scissors?!"

This is just one of a series of instances in a class of normal, mainstreamed kids. I really think parents are raising their boys to be totally ridiculous babies. And the staff totally pander to this. I don't mean they give in to the kids' demands, but they do try to soothe and comfort them, instead of telling them that their reaction is inappropriate. I think it's absurd for a third grader to be having a toddler-like reaction to losing a low-stakes little game.

I had a similar situation last year in a carpool situation, and after the second incident (the first time I was totally caught off-guard), I pulled over and said we would wait until he was ready to act his age, because I don't tolerate that behavior in my car. (He said he'd tell his mom on me, so I got my phone, and said, "Okay, let's call her and see how she wants to handle this." He suddenly pulled himself together instead.)

When my three-year-old starts to have a tantrum, I take away the activity and put her straight to bed. No debate. Sometimes I'll give a warning, but only one, then it's naptime. I don't even attempt to resolve the issue when they're tired and irrational. Why would this still be happening in third grade?? Maybe my memory is bad, but if any of us acted like that by that age, my parents would be asking what the heck was wrong with us!

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14 comments on ""Sensitive" Kids"

  • cybele
    January 25, 2015 at 1:38 am

    I would have described Azriel as a 'sensitive' child, but more in the sense that it was easy to upset him, make him feel uncomfortable and seeing other people upset/hurt usually upset him too, but when I mean upset, I mean quiet and withdrawn, not all out crying. He was certainly not the tantrum thrower or loud crier of my bunch.

    I think sensitive is one of those words that is being interchanged with other words, same way bully is. Like you, I don't think 8yr olds having full blown tantrums over a game of rock paper scissors is a sign of sensitivity, that's more like being a poor sport.

  • TabascoNatalie
    January 25, 2015 at 5:33 am

    First things first -- you're talking about somebody else's kids. in my honest experience, it takes just ONE disagreeable situation for an outsider to jump to very wrong conclusions.

    As for own kids, my 6yo could fit the description of sensitive/whiny. He does not take well being shouted at, rough and tumble play, being on a receiving end of a joke. Doesn't throw tantrums, but cries easily and gets upset/angry for really long time.

    I think its is counterproductive to shame or tell of children for getting upset. They are different personalities, also grow/mature at different pace. For some it might just be a phase, for others -- it is the way they feel.

  • Wickett
    January 26, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I certainly agree that some kids are truly just more sensitive than others, but the example that akmom gave is a very blatant example of whiney kid not getting his way. A little embarrassment didn't do me any harm whenever my parents asked me why on earth would I be crying over something so trivial, and to dry it up. I did, I grew thicker skin, and little stuff stopped bothering me.

    Now the kid may have just had a bad moment, all kids do, so I agree with TabascoNatalie on that point. It takes a parent to know.

  • akmom
    January 26, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    True, that one incident might not mean that particular kid has a meltdown over every disappointment. I was kind of looking at it from the perspective of three different kids of similar ages having these meltdowns over the course of one semester, so it "felt" like a trend. I only confronted one parent over it, because in that case I was interacting with him on a regular basis and needed to establish boundaries, and that was the parent that wrote it off as "sensitive."

    It's just that my recollection of growing up was that this kind of thing didn't happen among third graders.

  • Wickett
    January 27, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Originally Posted by akmom
    True, that one incident might not mean that particular kid has a meltdown over every disappointment. I was kind of looking at it from the perspective of three different kids of similar ages having these meltdowns over the course of one semester, so it "felt" like a trend. I only confronted one parent over it, because in that case I was interacting with him on a regular basis and needed to establish boundaries, and that was the parent that wrote it off as "sensitive."

    It's just that my recollection of growing up was that this kind of thing didn't happen among third graders.
    I agree with your overall assessment. It's good to be careful not to jump conclusions but it's definitely true that we see things like this more than we used to.

    I have a friend who's son is 6, and he's extremely sensitive and touchy feely. Honestly, it comes off as unnatural to me. The whole time I'm around him I just want to teach him the ways of being a man. Not that being a man has to be rude, crude, and violent, but because he cries more than his sister does.

  • artmom
    February 25, 2015 at 8:20 pm

    You're original question was in terms of the meaning behind "sensitive" kids.
    There are a few meanings. One meaning, is a child that has great sympathy and empathy towards others and may not be able to handle teasing and put downs or being spoken to in an abrupt manner.

    Another meaning is when a child is spiritually sensitive, like a clairvoyant. Not necessarily psychic, or able to see or sense spirits. Some people are able to pick up on the energies and moods of other people around them more strongly.

    As for your comment about boys being raised as "crying babies", I find that very sexist. Your post is very judgmental of the kids you teach. There are a wide range personalities you will have to deal with in your profession and it shouldn't come as a surprise to you that you will encounter an upset child. I think you need to learn about why kids get upset over little things. I wouldn't want a teacher trying to dictate how my child should feel.

  • akmom
    March 3, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    I'm a home inspector by profession, so it probably isn't too important that I understand the complexities of child development. I volunteer in my own children's classrooms once a week and on field trips. That's where these observations came from.

    The reason I singled out boys is because I simply haven't seen girls behave like this, in all the four years I've had children in school. I think it would annoy me just as much coming from a girl.

    Originally Posted by
    I think you need to learn about why kids get upset over little things.
    This is really my question in a nutshell, I guess. I mean, I understand why toddlers do it. It's all they know. A game of peek-a-boo is their whole world, and if they have to stop and do something else, it feels like the end of the (fun) world to them. They have no concept of time or the bigger picture. But these third graders know that rock-paper-scissors is just a way to pass the time while the other kids finish using the bathroom. So why would it warrant a full-blown meltdown? Again, we are talking about mainstream kids, not students with special needs that require more controlled/predictable environments.

  • akmom
    March 3, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    The other thing that shocks me is how loudly they cry. It's definitely a show stopper. When I was a kid, if you cried, it was more of a quiet sob that you tried to hide. Because no one wanted to be seen crying. Now it's like, hey everybody look at me, I'm devastated!

  • artmom
    March 4, 2015 at 12:54 am

    I remember having full blown melt downs. Often it had nothing to do with the situation it appeared to be.
    When kids cry over what seems petty, there could be something else going on in their heads and they can't quite convey what it is, so they describe what they are seeing at hand. A losing game could be trigger for some thing traumatic or complete frustration and they just don't know what else to do with their emotions to show exactly how they feel in a constructive way. They are like a volcano erupt. All those emotions and feelings building up and then they just explode. The best way to handle it is to take the child away from the situation and staring eyes (because then they start becoming embarrassed for crying and cry some more) and put them for a quiet time out. Time outs are not just for bad behaviour but to place the child somewhere safe and quiet until the collect themselves and think about what they were freaking out about in the first place.
    If the child becomes violent towards others or themselves, make sure everyone is back away from the child. Assess the actions and the way the child is behaving. Some young kids have seizures that appear to be tantrums. My daughter had gone through this until she was about 3, but other kids might have these types of seizures in later years. They are extremely painful. The child does not know what they are doing and cannot control it. It doesn't last long. Just make sure they are safe and you are not too close as they can grab you and bite.

  • akmom
    March 6, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Yeah, that's not at all what's happening. Timeouts for a nine-year-old? You've got to be kidding me.

  • nicholas
    June 17, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Reminds me of this article:

    "In a study done many years ago, psychologist Betty Hart, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the University of Washington, studied the effects of attention on Bill, a 4-year-old "crybaby" enrolled in a morning preschool. Each morning Bill had between five and 10 crying spells: He cried when he fell, bumped his head or if another child took away a toy. Each time Bill cried a teacher went to him to offer comfort. Hart and her colleagues reasoned that this adult attention, though intended to reassure and comfort Bill, might actually be the reason for all his crying.

    To test their hypothesis, the researchers asked the teachers to try a new strategy. Now when Bill cried, the teachers glanced at him to be sure he was not injured but did not go to him, speak to him or look at him. If he happened to cry when a teacher was nearby, she turned her back or walked away. Teachers paid special attention to Bill only when he suffered a mishap without crying. If he fell, for example, and went about his business without a whimper, a teacher would go to him and compliment him on his grown-up behavior. The result of this new approach: In five days the frequency of Bill's crying spells fell from an average of about seven per morning to almost zero.

    To be certain that Bill's change in behavior was because of the new strategy, Hart and colleagues asked the teachers to once again pay attention to Bill when he cried. Bill returned to crying several times a day. When the teachers again ignored the crying and attended to Bill only when he acted maturely, the crying spells dropped sharply. Hart and her coworkers repeated this experiment with another "crybaby," Alan, and got nearly identical results."

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/arti...re-out-control

  • singledad
    June 17, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Yes, it is certainly true that children can be trained / conditioned to suppress their emotions by showing them that no one cares how they feel.

    Funny how many people follow that philosophy and when their children become teenagers, they can't understand why their children wouldn't talk to them about things that bother them...

    Me, I'd much rather take the time and male the effort to teach my children how to cope with their emotions more effectively and how to express them appropriately.

  • BellaBabyBoutiq
    August 31, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Sensitive can mean anything!

  • babybibsplus
    February 16, 2016 at 8:21 am

    Some kid's hate to lose at anything and will throw a fit. They have to learn how to lose and that they are not always going to win and that it is alright to lose. They are not what I would consider sensitive, just used to getting their way.



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