The Highly Sensitive Child: When Every Constructive Feedback feels like a Personal Attack

The Highly Sensitive Child: When Every Constructive Feedback feels like a Personal Attack

“I thought you did well but I didn’t really understand what you meant by that sentence. Maybe you can elaborate on it?”

“What do you mean when you said you don’t understand it? I thought you can see that the teacher is against me. Isn’t it obvious? I am obviously one of the best in class and yet this teacher gave me a low score on purpose. Why? Isn’t it obvious he hates me?”

Jake’s father could see that Jake has completely shut down. He knows better that it is time to back off than to provide feedback. He sighs. It is always a struggle to provide feedback to Jake – who gets wounded too easily by any constructive feedback.

What has happened here?

Every Constructive Feedback reminds them that they are really a Failure

When your child takes any constructive feedback as a personal feedback, it can become very emotionally draining for both parents and child as they child tends to overreact to it. Children who are highly sensitive take criticism very personally even though the constructive feedback provided are really for their own good.

As a child who is very used to being praised, any negative feedback seems to shake them out of their comfort zone terribly. It serves as an unrealistic reminder to them that they are not performing up to expectations they perceive others have of them and that they are not all that they are cracked up to be. It is as if they are afraid that they are not really that intelligent which they have always been led to believe.

Furthermore, what may have aggravated the misunderstanding above is that the child tends to take criticism from parents more personally than from others. This is due that the child tends to place the highest emphasis on their parents’ feelings more than anyone’s else.

RELATED: How to help Your Child know that Mistakes are Okay

Strategies to Help Your Child Cope with Criticisms 

Lay the Options Clearly

Parents can be over-zealous in offering feedback. When dealing with a sensitive child, it is better to offer lesser feedback gently than going all out on a warpath.

As parents, things can be a little tricky when your child asks for your opinion on their work. Before you make any comments, you must ask the child if they would like your opinion to improve their work or are they just sharing it with you. This way, you can keep your thoughts to yourself if your child chooses the “Just Sharing” option and just state observations instead.

If your child asks for improvements, ask for specifics. For example, if your child asks to judge her essay, asks if they are looking for possible readers’ engagement or sentences structures or such. When you give vague statements, your child may feel frustrated as they may not know how to improve it.

Help the Teachers

When your child believes the teacher criticised their work, they may mistakenly assume that the teacher is just criticising them out of jealousy. Some may compare their work with weaker students and believe the teacher may have a personal grudge against them as they perceive themselves to be better than the rest.  That is when you need to explain to your child that it is the teacher’s job to ensure that every child is being stretched to their own potential and how another student’s progress is really irrelevant to their progress.

 RELATED: When Your Child Feels Betrayed All the Time

Responding to Criticisms 

One way to aid your child is to help them to identify the specific feedback required to improve. The steps are as shown below:

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If it is a younger child or there are only a few comments, you can start off with 2 questions:

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This encourages your child to self-talk and learn how to regulate their emotions from young.

If it is an older child, he/she may feel overwhelmed by the amount of feedback received from the teacher. Thus, they need to write down in order to have a clearer picture of what they should do next. The goal of this exercise is to ensure your child realises that no problem is too big if they break it down.

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The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine Aron
Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries, and Phobias by Tamar Chansky Ph.D.
Parenting the Highly Sensitive Child: A Guide for Parents & Caregivers of ADHD, Indigo and Highly Sensitive Children by Julie B. Rosenshein



When Your Child Feels Betrayed all the Time

When Your Child Feels Betrayed all the Time

Linda stormed off. When she had arrived at the meeting point earlier, she had noticed that her friends were engaged in a friendly chat. They had naturally ended the conversation when she appeared before them. Somehow, Linda could not contain her curiosity. When she questioned them, they told her they were chatting about their daily lives but did not see the need to repeat them to her as they were of mundane affairs. When she repeated her questions, her friends were put off by her behaviour and snapped at her. Feeling betrayed, Linda saw red and believed that they were no longer deserving to be her friends.

Why They Behave the Way They Do

Handling a highly-sensitive child can be very tiring.  In their minds, they believe everything should be in black-and-white without any shades of grey in between. They have very specific ideas about how people should behave and they are not sure of what to do if they acted any way else. Egos wounded, they believed firmly that other people should never deviate from their expectations of them.

Most children look for others as “people to play with”. Bright children, however, believe in idealistic friendships which comes with incompatible and rigid expectations. This often results in misunderstandings as their cognitive maturity may not match their emotional maturity and thus, fail to understand that mistakes by friends should not be met with the severing of a friendship.

RELATED: The Highly Sensitive Child

Strategies to Cope

Your child needs time to calm down and acknowledge their feelings before they can be guided. Here are some possible strategies to start off with after they have calm down:

Identify The Role Your Child Plays

Your child may contribute to the problem without realising. For example, if your child has been gossiping about others behind their back, tattled on another child without working out the problem or refuse to accept an apology or let go of past grievances, your child needs to realise that their actions may either strengthen or weaken the relationship with the other party.

It is not out of Malice

Many times, it is easier for a child to pin the blame on others than themselves. In fact, may adults do that too. Children who are often angry assume very quickly that the actions of others are often motivated by malice. They do not stop to consider other factors such as bad timing, environment or possible issues the other child may have been facing and often meted harsh judgements to them. In this case, it is good to role play with your child on possible explanations that one may be acting the way they do in a given situation.

This is a possible situation where you can practice reasonable doubt with your child. For example,

“Crime 1” : Sally did not say “hi” to me. She’s rude!

Possible Reasons:

– Maybe Sally did not see you passing by?

– Maybe Sally was thinking about something else?

– Maybe Sally was too shy?

– Maybe Sally was waiting for you to say “hi”?

– Did YOU say “hi” to her?


RELATED: Parenting

Everything is not in Black and White

There are many unwritten social skills during friendships. Some take it too literally and tend to scare off others. Others are unsure of what to do and believe in waiting until the relationship turn cold. When a child perceives things in black and white in a friendship, they may not realise that it takes a lot of work to preserve a friendship. Here are some active steps your child can take if they consider the relationship of importance to them:

Stop Setting Conditions

Some children tend to set conditions for friendships. Some are more materialistic such as “I will be friends with you if you stop being friends with her..” but some believe that their friends need to be improved  instead ” I will be your friend if you  …”. The child needs to understand that to accept a friend is to accept them for themselves – warts and all.

Using “I ” statements

This is an old piece of advice but it still works. A good way of sharing your child’s feelings with others is to use the formula below:

“I feel ____ when you  ____. Please _____”

By using “I”, it identifies a specific problem and describes the required remedy. People are less likely to listen and be more defensive when they hears “Don’t do ____”. By phrasing the sentence in positive terms, the other listener is more willing to listen. One last thing to note is that this only work with people who sincerely care for your child. Others may just dismiss it altogether.


Rule of thumb: the person who is least wrong should make the first move instead so that it lessen the embarrassment for the other party to apologise. Once the apologies have been exchanged, it is vital to remind your child not to bring up the past again.