Thomas Ramey Watson

The Most Important Thing To Know About Parenting Sensitive Kids

The data supporting the idea that more sensitive, “vulnerable” people do worse than others do in bad conditions but better in good conditions is based mainly on studies of adverse conditions—and show repeatedly that the mere lack of bad, really trying conditions is enough to let orchids fare better than others do. In other words, they tend to thrive under even “pretty good” conditions, and don’t require extraordinary care; you needn’t build the best, most carefully climate-controlled greenhouse ever made; a safe but stimulating environment will likely serve splendidly. For parenting, this means doing the right thing most of the time, not all the time, and providing a good environment, not necessarily a great one, to make the most of a child’s high responsiveness to experience.
If that’s the case, then super-parenting isn’t needed. Bettelheim’s “good enough parenting” will do just fine.

I would add, regarding how to parent sensitive children, that if you’ve guarded against the most harsh experiences that can affect a child, it probably makes more sense to focus on providing lots of small, positive things than on being hypervigilant about protecting the child from every bump, insult, or troubling challenge. And anxious hypervigilance sends a message that the world is perhaps too dangerous to handle. Small expressions of support and confidence and reassurance send the message that though the world can bring trouble, we’re almost always up for it, and will recover from all but—and sometimes even those too—the most serious setbacks or injuries or insults.


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