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  Parenting Advice Column
  Subject: is child oversensitive?

QUESTION:

We have an extremely sensitive, caring, and compassionate two year old. (And so many other descriptors exist for those two's!) If I put her down for her nap and she knows I have a headache, the first thing out of her mouth upon rising is "your head feel better?" Whenever my husband or I return from anywhere she'll ask " You have nice day?" or even "You have nice errands?" So what's the problem? I am concerned that her sensitivity will get in the way of her happiness especially in a couple different situations:

1. With other toddlers (she will start pre-school in the fall) who don't tend to be as gentle and considerate.

2. During our upcoming potty experiences, as she is fearful of making "mistakes" and falls apart whenever she does.

What can I do to achieve some level of sensitivity moderation? I am definitely not looking to make her tough but to just give her some coping tools. Any advice or resources you can give will be appreciated.

Jones family


JAN'S REPLY:

What you are describing is actually quite normal and typical for a child her age who has been raised with love and respect.

As to your worries about potential difficulties with "less considerate" children at school, they are realistic. In fact, the potential for having poor social skills modeled for a child is one of the many reasons that more and more families are choosing unschooling.

As John Holt wrote to a parent worried about over-sheltering her children: "Why not? It is your right, and your proper business, as parents, to shelter your children and protect them from adversity, at least as much as you can. Many of the world's children are starved or malnourished, but you would not starve your children so that they would know what this was like. You would not let your children play in the middle of a street full of high-speed traffic. Your business is, as far as you can, to help them realize their human potential, and to that end you put as much as you can of good into their lives, and keep out as much as you can of bad."

If you are considering unschooling, an excellent resource is John Holt's How Children Learn. This is an exceptional book for all parents, regardless of their educational approach. See more unschooling titles in the Learning section of our Recommended Books list.

Re your question about your daughter's fear of making mistakes/potty training, some children are more conscientious about doing things the right way the first time. This doesn't necessarily mean that anything is wrong; it's their nature. What it does mean is that you need to take this characteristic into account when your daughter is learning to do new things, such as using a potty. Be careful to avoid any sort of negativity when she does make a mistake, and any impatience with her while she's learning new skills.

From reading your letter, I doubt that you are negative or impatient, but may need to be reassured that her "sensitivity" is part of her gentle spirit. It's not that she needs toughening. It's that the world around her needs softening. Celebrate the fact that your daughter is such a loving and compassion child!

Thank you for writing.

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