Principles for Dealing with Temperament Issues (Part 6e )

Today, we continue with amplification of the sixth principle and how caregivers can adapt to children’s temperamental issues. The strategies below are focused at a child’s sensitivity to various forms of outside stimulation.

Your child’s tolerance threshold

family outing
As children grow, they also develop uniquely scaled thresholds of tolerance in how they respond to their environment.

We have already emphasized how children differ widely in reactions, behaviors and temperaments. Additionally, as children grow, they also develop uniquely scaled thresholds of tolerance in how they respond to their environment.

A child with a low threshhold of responsiveness reacts little to his outside world. His reactions may be perplexing or downright scary for his caregivers as it is possible for them to assume something could be intensely wrong with the child.

While every effort should be made to assess the health of a child, the strategies listed below may help to bring a balance to understanding the extremely sensitive child.

Tips for the low threshold child

  • Avoid stimulation and situations that trigger intensive reactions.
  • To help the child overcome being triggered, use desensitization by gradually exposing the child to the stimulus.
  • Give the child words to explain how he feels.
  • Reduce stimulation whenever possible.
  • Take quiet breaks to prevent overstimulation.
  • If there is too much stimulation for the child to handle, remove the child from the situation.
  • Introduce new foods gradually and keep food flavors and temperature moderate.
  • Notice and remark on the child’s positive emotional reactions such as showing empathy and concern.
  • If the child has difficulty falling asleep, try to keep things quiet, have soft sheets, adjust the temperature and consider using a night light.
  • Reduce television-watching and use of computer games.
  • Try to calm the child before he spins out of control. Notice, especially if the child is sick or tired, signs when he is becoming anxious or overwhelmed and attempt to reduce the stressors if possible.
  • Teach the child to use deep breathing techniques in difficult situations.

    Family at the park
    Provide appropriate sensory input that meets the child’s needs in a consistent, predictable manner.

Tips for the high threshold (less sensitive to outside stimulation) child

  • Alert the child to cues he may be missing.
  • Provide appropriate sensory input that meets the child’s needs in a consistent, predictable manner.
  • Be careful to make sure the child understands what is being requested.
  • In general, draw out the child by being enthusiastic and working hard to get his attention. (You may choose to use animated facial expressions or vocal tones.)
  • Enter the child’s world of play or television viewing in order to interact with him.
  • Find out what stimulates the child: wrestling, listening to music, bright colors or types of physical activity.
  • Provide opportunities for fun physical activities in general. 

I think from reading these strategies that you can get some ideas of the types of activities that you can try to bring balance to extremes of sensitivities that children in your care may have to outside stimulation. As you relate to them, I’m also sure you will think of other ways to help them embrace their world with a better balanced set of reactions. Your effort will make a huge difference in how they grow and face new ideas and experiences. 

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network  


Source: Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Encouraging Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children, Second Edition by Sarah Landy, pp 52-53. 



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