Discipline and Your Intense Child

Discipline and Your Intense Child

Do you feel like all you ever do is yell at and correct your intense child? That for every time you praise him, you’ve already berated him 15 times? And, are you completely exhausted before you’ve finished your first cup of coffee?

Yeah… me too.


Discipline and Your Intense Child

photo credit: Andy M Taylor via photopincc

So what do we do? Our children need discipline. While most adults {and children} think discipline means the act of punishing, and it can, it is more constructive to think of discipline as training a person to obey rules.

As hard as it may be to get our most spirited and intense kiddos on board to follow rules, the fact is, everyone has to. I can’t walk into a store and take what I want, and walk out without paying. I can’t speed through every red light because I’d rather not stop on my way to wherever it is I am going.

And neither can they.

Your son can’t hit his little sister because he’s annoyed by the noise she’s making. Your daughter can’t scream in the middle of Target because they don’t have the toy you went there for her to buy with her birthday money. Screaming, hitting, swearing, kicking, or any kind of hurtful reactions are not acceptable.

And neither are spirited debates every. time. you. tell. them. no.

{Now… just for the record, I don’t think healthy and respectful debates with your gifted or intense child are inherently bad. I just don’t think they are appropriate all the time. In fact, I go out of my way to teach my intense kids how to disagree.}

So what do you do?


Teach Family Values

Without identifying what your family values most, your gifted child – your intense child – is left guessing. Have you developed a family mission statement? Do your kids know what is on it?

Do they understand why you value what you do?

Intense kids seek a deeper understanding of their world than others. They are a bit more than their same age peers… more introspective, more energetic, more questioning, more, more, more. It’s important that you respect that, and share with them your reasoning and values.

 Discipline and Your Intense Child


Define Your Family’s Nonnegotiables and the Consequences for Breaking Those Rules

What is it that you can and can’t live with? Don’t like disrespectful tones of voice? Despise interruptions? Expect that your children do not hurt others – physically or verbally? Refuse to tolerate lies?

Make sure your intense kids know those things, and know exactly what will happen if they break those rules.

We have a simple system. Our primary rules are: Obey, Be Kind, and Be a Helper.

While we expect our children to obey us, there is room for discussion – as long as it is done in a respectful way. We call it “disagreeing appropriately,” and learned of it from Nicholeen Peck’s book Parenting a House United.

Based on strategies from her book, we teach our kids to frame their discussion in empathy — “Mom, I know you want me to go to bed right now, but I’m really enjoying this book. Is there any way I can read for another half an hour? I’ll set a timer and go to bed as soon as it goes off.” It doesn’t always work, but when they remember to use empathy, they are usually rewarded with a yes.

I want my kids to be leaders, and good leaders show empathy, but still get their points and desires across.

Kindness, however, is nonnegotiable. If my kids are mean to each other, a pet, or a friend, they will earn a negative consequence. They know what to expect ahead of time, and I stay consistent.


Discipline and Your Intense Child


Consistency is Key

Which brings me to consistency… There is nobody like your intense gifted kid for jumping all over any inconsistencies you show. Don’t ever have a moment of weakness… this kid will jump all over you and it will take you years to rebuild that credibility. {Know what I’m talking about?}

How do you show consistency without going to battle all day, every day?

It’s a challenge, but it starts with love and mutual respect.

Explain to your child that you love him and that it’s your job to make sure he grows into the best adult he can be. You want him to be loving, kind, and compassionate, and to us his intensity and gifts to be a good leader. Because of that, you’ll hear him out on things that don’t make or break the family, but on those nonnegotiable issues you’ve identified, you will stick to your family mission.

And then do it.


Be Patient and Give Yourself Grace

It’s not an easy job, raising a gifted or an intense kid. You need to be prepared to battle – a lot. And decide what you’ll push for and what you’ll give in on.

My eleven year old son doesn’t help me bring in the groceries. I know… shock & disgust, right? Well… I could push the issue. I could yell at him to stay out and help for goodness sake as I usher the 4 year old in while juggling a bag and a toddler in subzero temperatures and he scampers in first, and plops himself in a chair with a book.

And most people think I should.

But, shopping is excruciating for my incredibly intense, twice-exceptional, sensory-seeking gifted son. I’m less concerned with having him bring in a few bags of groceries than I am with having him hold it together in the store without pulling displays of cereal boxes down on himself and his siblings. I know that if holds it together the entire time we are in the store, that he has expended major energy.

He needs a break. I can fight with him – and he’ll probably unload a few bags while complaining bitterly and throwing the cans and jars onto the kitchen floor. Or, I can respect his needs {like he respected mine by behaving in the store} and let him decompress by retreating with a book, and sometimes his baby brother to cuddle.


Discipline and Your Intense Child


I choose respect.

Most of the time… I’m not perfect.

It comes down to knowing your kids, their temperaments, needs, triggers, and methods of recharging when they need to.

It’s taken me awhile to get where I am, and I still fail regularly. You will too. Gifted kids… Intense kids… they’ll try your patience. Again and again.

This is where Grace comes in, my friends… Grace and patience.

You are a fabulous parent.

You have an awesome child.

Love your child for whomever he or she is. And enjoy the journey. I’ll support you… will you support me?

There are some great resources available for parents of intense and strong-willed kids. I’ve gathered many on a page full of resources for you as you parent your awesome kids, and have included links to some great books below. Did I miss any? Let me know about your favorite resources in the comments or on Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with you.




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Discipline and Your Intense Child