By Kayris, APtly Said, reprinted with permission by Attachment Parenting International.

I have two children, a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl. They have vastly different personalities, and I've had to tailor my parenting to address those differences. My son is energetic, independent and fearless, he is a picky eater, and even as a young baby, he didn't sleep a lot. My daughter is more reserved and cautious, she sleeps and eats well, and she's quieter.

The differences between them are most apparent when it comes to discipline.

When my son was two, a timeout was effective form of discipline for him. He's the kind of kid you needed to physically pull away from sticking his fingers in the electrical socket because he wouldn't listen any other way. A timeout is still a part of my discipline repertoire for him, and part of the reason it is such a punishment is because he has to stop playing, leave his toys and be by himself sitting on his bed. 99% of the time, he comes out a few minutes later, all apologetic and hugs me and says he won't do whatever it was he did. Now that he is four, disciplining him continues to be a more "hands-on" approach. We don't spank our children, but I do have to take his hands, and have him look me in the face, so I have his full attention.

With my daughter, all I have to usually do is look at her and shake my head and she stops whatever it is. Furthermore, I rarely have to correct her for the same thing more than once or twice. She's the kind of child who needs a reminder before someone is getting ready to leave. She doesn't handle abruptness well, and she doesn't handle separation well unless she's been prepared. So sticking her in a time out, by herself, is more damaging to her. Raising my voice isn't an option either, because it startles her and she cries. Discipline shouldn't be traumatic, it should be fair and gentle and respectful.

For my sensitive child, some tactics that have worked are:
  • Redirection: Since she is only two, sometimes it's not worth it to battle over every little thing. Quite often, distracting her with a toy or a sticker is an easy way to end the tantrum. This is particularly effective when she is doing something like trying to pet our grouchy cat or when she's frustrated.
  • Time Out (On My Lap): As I mentioned, a time out, alone in her room, is too harsh of a punishment for her, but removing her from the situation and giving her a few minutes of sitting quietly on my lap has worked wonders.
  • Acknowledge The Validity Of Her Feelings: It's hard to be two and not have the language skills to adequately express emotions. So while it can be hard for me to listen to her cry or scream or whine, it's helpful for me to remember that sometimes I feel like crying and screaming too. I just don't, because I'm an adult, and my daughter's reaction to frustrating circumstances is completely age appropriate.
  • Ignore The Noise: I'm a mom, but I've also spent the last 15 years working with dogs. So I'm very good at tuning out annoying noise. And when applied to my children, I've learned that I don't need to step in every time. If my children are having a disagreement over a toy, sometimes I stand back and let them try to work it out themselves. If my daughter is screeching because she wants a cup of milk, I simply say, "I need you to talk nicer, I can't understand screaming," and then ignore her until she calms down.
Making sure that my methods of discipline are appropriate for the personality of my children has worked wonderfully, and our home is much more peaceful.

Do you have a sensitive child? What method of discipline have you found effective? Discuss it in our Gentle Discipline forum.

Image: Russ