The Science of Parenting

Sensitivity: It Makes Sense | S. 3 Ep. 2

August 13, 2020 Season 3 Episode 2
The Science of Parenting
Sensitivity: It Makes Sense | S. 3 Ep. 2
Show Notes Transcript

Your child’s reactions to stimulus such as loud noises and bright lights are completely predictable. Use your powers of observation to help you guide their reactions to stimulus. 

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Mackenzie Johnson:

Welcome to The Science of Parenting podcast, where we connect you with research based information that fits your family. We'll talk about the realities of being a parent and how research that can help guide our parenting decisions. I'm Mackenzie Johnson, parent of two littles with their own quirks. And I'm a parenting educator.

Lori Hayungs:

And I'm Lori Hayungs, parent of three and they are all in different life stages. And I'm a parenting educator. And last week we launched season three, talking all about temperament.

Mackenzie Johnson:

I can't believe we made it all the way to season three. You've been very patient, Lori.

Lori Hayungs:

I have been , I've been patient, I know. And last week when we were done recording, I just was so excited about everything that we had shared. So if you haven't heard it, it's all right, go back. And you still have plenty of time to listen to that first season. So this entire season, we're going to be talking about temperament and how temperament impacts your parenting. So just a quick reminder about what temperament is and what it isn't before we start. Temperament is our predisposition to how we react. So it's inborn, it's genetic, it's with us from the very beginning of our life. It's our behavior that goes way back to the beginning. And many times people ask, well, how is this different from personality? And I like to think of temperament as the foundation with which we start. And then on top of that foundation, we begin to layer some patterns of personality. We layer on our own growth and development. We layer on our life experiences and how we interact and grow with others. So it's always there and it's always been there. And I love what our writer, Barb Dunn Swanson, has been reminding us as we've been writing and sharing and researching. And she says, we have to remember that temperament is a gift. And we as human beings, we place value on gifts. And our temperament really is our gift to the world. So through love and guidance and support and structure, we can learn to interact with others and our own unique temperament adds value to who we are in the world.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. I love that. I love that so much. She's so good. Oh , well, and another thing to remember about temperament is the researchers , Thomas and Chess and James Cameron and colleagues at Kaiser Permanente, they have done research on thousands of kids and temperament traits for 30 plus years. And you know what they found, which again, we talked about this more in depth last week, but what they found was each of us have these nine temperament traits. Everybody's got them. The question is figuring out, did we get a little of this one? Or did we get a lot of this one? And did our kids get a little, or did our kids get a lot? So we're going to be walking through kind of figuring that out, exploring each of these traits over the next few weeks. but if you're looking for more information on temperament and kind of that background information, of course you can listen back through our episodes this season and find information on our website, science of parenting.org, for more of those temperament resources. So for today , we're going to dive into this first of the nine temperament traits, sensitivity.

Lori Hayungs:

Yes, here we go. And like Mackenzie said, we are sharing all of our sources on our website . So if you miss her specifically citing , or if you want to know about how did Mackenzie find these profiles that we're going to start, go back to our website and check it out, but let's talk about sensitivity. So when we think about sensitivity, I like to use Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's definition and thoughts on it. And she wrote a book called Raising Your Spirited Child. And she described sensitivity as the sensations around us that are all soaked up. And I love that description. They're all soaked up there.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So that's a word picture. You talk in pictures.

Lori Hayungs:

I do talk in pictures. It's our five senses. And we soak up our sensitivity through our sight, our touch, our smell or hearing , our tastes and also our emotions. And so from an early age, we actually learn sensitivity by how we connect with others and how others react and interact with us. And our senses and our emotions are really tightly connected and how we use them essentially is dependent in part on how our brains are wired, which we talked about in season one, but also how aware are we, what's happening around us. Sometimes I like to think of this as that forgotten trait. It can be very much in the background, but it has a huge impact. Yes. So my question, as we start off is, I know that you had an idea of what that word sensitivity meant, but now with that definition and those word pictures, what do you think about the word sensitivity now?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I like to preface this for everybody watching and listening , Lori has a lot more experience with temperament than I do. She's done temperament consults and lots more temperament education. So I kind of consider myself the rookie. So I'm kind of learning along the way if I'm honest. So as I think about my understanding of sensitivity, kind of when I was first diving into it, I think about, I always thought it was so feely, like very emotion tied . Like I'm very sensitive to like, do I cry in a movie kind of sensitivity? And so I didn't recognize all of the like five senses portions of it. And so that was kind of what I first thought. And it's kind of morphed over time, as I've heard you talk about it. And as we've been doing research for this season, the five senses and how important that is and in the piece it's of those five senses, which like, I feel like this literally just clicked, like very recently that like how much I notice about what I'm taking in from those five sentences . Like, do I notice that it's really loud? Like, do I notice the texture of my food, am I sensitive to that? And so, even that you might be sensitive to certain senses and not so sensitive to other ones. Like that has really morphed my understanding and how aware I am of that experience of my senses.

Lori Hayungs:

I will tell you that's very common, you know, as people think about it only in terms of that emotional sensitivity and not that whole soaking it in through the senses. And so I think that's an aha. It's like sometimes when it comes to temperament traits, that first aha of what that particular traits definition really is and what it means for us as human beings. So, yeah. Alright . So now that we know what sensitivity is, let's think about it on the temperament continuum.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Wait, can I regurgitate it back to you and make sure I'm operating on the same page? Okay. One more time. So sensitivity is about, like Mary Sheedy Kurcinka says, the super sensors, if you have high sensitivity. So how much you are aware of the five senses and emotion feeling. So some people are very sensitive and really notice those things. And some people might be less sensitive and are kind of non-reactive to those things.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly that's sensitivity. That's what we're talking about. Okay. And you drew us right into that whole idea of it's a continuum. So there is this pocket of people who have gotten a huge bucket full of sensitivity, and you use the right words, right, a super set of sensors. So they have this high degree of sensitivity and their sensors are on high alert. And then there's this other bucket of people that they are less sensitive or nonreactive . And so what research actually tells us is when it comes to that continuum of who got what and how much, there's actually kind of a pool at each end of the spectrum. So think of it this way. So on the extreme ends, maybe 15 to 20% of the people received high sensitivity to the definition that we shared, really noticing those things. And then the opposite end of that spectrum, there might be like 15 to 20% of the population that doesn't notice those little subtle things happening. All right, we're going to give some examples. And then in the middle, there's this big flux of 60 to 70% of the people that you might just be saying as we talk about this. Well, that depends, Lori. Well, that depends. Maybe 60 to 70% of the people kind of in the middle of that spectrum. So if we think about that higher , the super sensors, is how sensitive is our child to loud noises, bright lights, wet clothing. Are their feelings easily hurt? Are they easily overwhelmed with just too much commotion? And if so, you might say that they have a higher sensitivity level. On the opposite end is someone whose child might be less sensitive and they are less sensitive to those types of non-subtle types of things, like a weather change. They might not hear a whisper. They might not see or understand that look from across the room, stop what you're doing right now. What we're talking about, remember, is these natural inborn sensitivities to our surroundings, okay. This is not a diagnosis for a clinical problem called sensory processing disorder. Okay . Two very separate things, right? I just want to make that clear along our whole temperament journey. A highly sensitive child does not automatically receive a clinical diagnosis for sensory processing disorder. We're talking about natural inborn sensitivity. Okay. So those children who are just not as aware of their sensory surroundings can be the less sensitive and non-reactive , and then there are those children who may be more highly sensitive. So yes, I did assign you homework and what I wanted from you was to go out and do a temperament profile on your children and those resources are on our website, but tell me, Mackenzie, what did you find out about your children's sensitivity level?

Mackenzie Johnson:

So , you know, as I share, I have two littles and so I found that my daughter was on the little bit more sensitive side. So she wasn't like at the extreme of high sensitivity, but a little bit on that end of, you know, between middle and high sensitivity. And my son was actually kind of more in the middle, on the lower, like non-reactive side. Okay. Okay. But the other part of the assignment was me. Right? And my co-parent so we both also took to temperament profiles. And so I know that's a factor here too, right ?

Lori Hayungs:

Yes. So quickly I'll share I have three children, right? Different ages. One's launched, one's in college, one's in high school and the two children, the oldest and the youngest, are less sensitive, you know, kind of in that middle to less sensitive. And then my middle daughter, she is more highly sensitive like myself. We'll talk about how that plays out in some examples here shortly. So tell me a little bit about how, when you recognize those two profiles, those adult profiles and the children's profiles, and when you look at sensitivity, what do you see there?

Mackenzie Johnson:

So I noticed that what I discovered about myself was I'm actually not that sensitive. Like I'm pretty non-reactive when you look across the scale for this particular trait, that I'm maybe not picking up on those things all the time. And , so that was interesting for me. I thought I might be more sensitive and it did make me think about like, thinking about being overstimulated, I've talked about that. But that does remind me, like, okay, but that's been something that's kind of come to fruition more recently for me. And I recently have been, you know, getting mental health help and that's been helping address that. So again, temperament versus diagnosis , but so I was more non-reactive so I wonder if maybe I don't notice the pileup. Yeah. Like it's loud, but maybe I don't register that. So like it's loud and I'm hungry and it just piles up, but I don't notice that pileup. But so that difference between my daughter and I, and so even though she's not like all the way on the extreme, I'm a little more on extreme. So even her little bit of sensitivity sometimes to me, it's like, come on. That's not very nice but to me it feels because it's so different. Like, because it feels so different from me, sometimes that difference is hard .

Lori Hayungs:

Yeah, absolutely. So I remember a story about my middle daughter, who I said was more sensitive and her teacher in second grade had the coldest room in the school. And she had the northwest corner where there were windows and so that room was cold and my daughter who's highly sensitive, she was oftentimes, you know, hearing the lights buzz, or she would hear the children in the classroom clicking their pens or moving their desks. And she had to be in the front of the classroom just to help her with certain school needs, et cetera. But her teacher, because she was so cold in that corner classroom, in the winter would bring in a space heater. And I remember that day that my daughter in second grade, and she's telling me it's just so loud in there, mommy, it's just so loud. And I remember thinking what could be so loud? And so at conferences, the teacher and I were talking and the teacher said, well, I have her right up here. And I looked and I saw the space heater right away. And immediately I thought, Oh, she's hearing that space heater go on and off. And then the other thing that she said, it's so loud and it gets so hot, mommy. And I thought, Oh my goodness, as a highly sensitive kid, she noticed all those things right away. And they were hard for her sometimes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well , those experiences of lying more on that extreme and your ability, like you said, you're also more sensitive. And so your ability to see and recognize like, okay , she's also pretty sensitive. So she could very easily be picking up on these things.

Lori Hayungs:

Yeah. She's like me, which sometimes I wish, you know, I think, Oh gosh, I wish she wasn't so sensitive like me. But at the same time, you know what, I rarely have to discipline or to be firm with her because she's so sensitive that I just have to speak in a voice like this, very matter of factly, and she gets it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay. So another thing that's really important to understand, right? We have this continuum of things. I kind of want to explore what this looks like at the different ages. Right? So ways that we might see the sensitivity on both ends of that continuum, whether you got a lot in your bucket or a little sensitivity, how does this play out for some maybe common challenges kids might experience on both ends of the spectrum. So can we just, I mean, I'll quiz you a little. We start with our littlest, like our infants or toddlers, a child and a situation where if they have a lot or if they have a little, maybe we might see sensitivity play out.

Lori Hayungs:

All right . And then move to high school.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. We'll move on through. Alright , excellent. I'm ready. Alright . So let's start with that youngest, that infant and toddler sensitivity.

Lori Hayungs:

So thinking about things that happen and that parents are really focused on during the infant toddler time, let's take diaper changing or toilet training. Toilet training for a good example for sensitivity. Think about a child who is less sensitive, so a less sensitive infant and toddler. They may not notice those signals prior to urinating. They may not notice those signals prior to having a bowel movement. And so they may not notice the wet or soiled diaper. They may not give you those cues that it's wet or soiled until you're 30 miles down the road without a diaper bag.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So what about the sensitive child?

Lori Hayungs:

The sensitive child then might be the child that the instant they feel a wet or soiled diaper, they need to be changed. Maybe they're not finished. And so you end up changing a few times in a row, right? Or maybe they do have to go to the bathroom again. Like literally everyone went outside and you literally have to go to the bathroom again because they need to go. And so with those infants and toddlers with that sensitivity, it's a matter of figuring out, you know, where do they fall? Because you can learn their cues and they can start to help to learn their cues as well.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Oh yeah. But that example in particular, for that age, thinking about my two kids, they're not on the extremes, but they are a little different. And so like, yeah, my son doesn't let us know. And sometimes that's problematic versus my daughter was much more likely to notice immediately and let us know. Okay. So what if we move up the age range here into preschool, what's a common preschool thing with sensitivity?

Lori Hayungs:

So preschoolers are doing things on their own, right? They're getting dressed, they're becoming independent. And so sometimes I will say, if you think that sensitivity is not a big deal, then let me ask you, why do you think clothing companies have gone to seamless socks and no tags. Because of sensitivity, right? A highly sensitive preschooler refuses to put those socks and shoes on. They refuse to wear those shirts that have the itchy tags. And, you know, as they're gaining their independence, they're saying, I know that I don't like this and it doesn't feel good. Therefore I am not wearing it. And on the opposite side of that spectrum might be the child that never wears a coat. The preschooler that constantly takes their coat off and forgets it , that they might run outside without their shoes on. They might dive into their food when it's still hot. They are not noticing those small, subtle changes. And again, remembering that no matter what age, it's really not intentionally defying you or not listening to you. Even though you've told them 16,000 times, it's just that natural bent they have towards, I didn't catch that subtle cue. I'm less sensitive. What was that?

Mackenzie Johnson:

I'm very apt still, I mean, as a kid, but even as an adult, my non -reactive , nonsensitive. I absolutely go out barefoot. In fact, if I only need to take out the garbage, let the dog out, even in the winter sometimes, I'll be okay. Like all there's not shoes here. It's fine.

Lori Hayungs:

In my sensitive daughter, you know, I honestly I've really never bought her a lot of clothes because she likes the feeling of the clothes that she has. Those are the ones that she wears. If I buy her something new, I might have to introduce it to her several times before it then becomes part of her rotation. You know , we would have to suddenly have, Oh, we lost that because it was so dirty and disgusting, but that was her. She was sensitive, I'm comfortable with this.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yeah. It felt right. Okay. So let's keep going up, let's do like a school age ish.

Lori Hayungs:

Middle elementary school age sensitive, a little bit. So a less sensitive child in this temperament conversation would be that child that possibly doesn't catch the look from the teacher across the room. So let's say the teacher gave some kind of head nod to indicate it was their turn to go do something. Or the teacher, you know , gave them that look that said , I wouldn't do that if I were you, unless you want... The less sensitive child is not going to catch those subtle cues. Oh my goodness. I just thought of one - the flipping on and off of the lights as an indicator that it's time to transition to a different activity. In all honesty, the less sensitive child may not catch that light flicking on and off. And so they're not intentionally defying you. They just didn't catch it. On the opposite side, that sensitive child, again, like my daughter, they may hear and feel and see every little thing. And they may notice that someone else is clicking their pen next to them. The fire alarm happened to be right outside the computer lab. My daughter's first day of kindergarten, they had a fire drill. It took her months to go back to the computer lab because that sound, that noise. And so, you know, those are the types of things when it comes to sensitivity in elementary school, we have to think about, and that's why I said, it's kind of one of those hidden things.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It's subtle, very subtle, subtle. Okay. Then, as we think about like the developmental tasks and common things happening with some of those older, I mean like middle school or teenagers, those kinds. Where does sensitivity, play out there?

Lori Hayungs:

So sensitivity here can kind of be a hard thing, especially when it comes to social relationships, since that's really what's happening developmentally there. So thinking about those passive aggressive types of relationship things that happen. You know, a less sensitive person might not notice when someone is being passive aggressive, and therefore they could become a target for more passive, aggressive things to happen. They are less sensitive. They just might not notice that their deodorant isn't working. And we know that hormones and body changes are happening at that time. They may not notice some of those , you know, things about their clothing or their hygiene and a highly sensitive person. You know, that high schooler might have their feelings hurt all the time. And other people are thinking, it's not that big a deal.

Mackenzie Johnson:

They looked at me wrong.

Lori Hayungs:

That teacher hates me and that teacher may have no idea. And so yes, there is no good and bad temperament and it changes with developmental things that are happening so that temperament doesn't change, but how we respond to it changes.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And the tasks we're facing, like, you know, developmentally and situations in our lives and things.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay. So if I understand, all right , we understand what sensitivity is. We know some of us have a lot of sensitivity, some of us have not so much, and that it looks different, you know, at different stages and tasks and things like, okay, what now? So as a parent of kids who may have a very sensitive temperament, may lie in the middle, or may be kind of non-reactive, now what?

Lori Hayungs:

That kind of brings us to research tidbit number three, or , what research likes to call goodness of fit. And it's where we learn to respond to our child's natural temperament. And so the original researchers, Chess and Thomas, they're the ones who coined goodness of fit. And it's that idea of learning to understand and support children's natural tendencies. And it really helps us to not blame the child or even not to necessarily blame ourselves. And it helps to bring out that fit that's best for both of us. And it may make our job easier because ultimately we're learning about, and beginning to really understand, the behaviors in a way that could prevent behavior problems or, you know, as we think about, there's no good or bad temperament. It's a gift. It's unique to each child and each trait has assets and liabilities and beginning to learn and understand and appreciate is really that thing that builds that positive parenting and goodness of fit.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Absolutely. And all of those things kind of also make me think of season two on self care. You know, we talk about understanding and seeing our kids' strengths and our own and you know, and like having a plan for our kids and feeling competent and having a philosophy, all those things are things that are ways we can feel better about ourselves in parenting, which is a way we take care of ourselves. Right? It's like building the skills to do the things that we need to do. Temperament can help us do that, too. Right. Like goodness of fit and figuring out those strategies. That's good for all of us.

Lori Hayungs:

It's absolutely good for all of us. I love the, you gave us an example as we were talking about goodness of fit. Do you mind sharing that example?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Okay. So talking about that, my daughter and I, you know, she's a little more sensitive. I tend to be way less sensitive. And so this goodness of fit of where our temperaments naturally are , there's a difference there. And I might even say the word clash, that sometimes there's a clash. And one example that came to mind in particular thinking about those five senses was right now , in the summer, in particular, we have a black car and , and it gets really hot in the summer. And so a lot of times when we go to get in the car, my daughter is like, Oh, the car seat, it's so hot, the car seat. And like, okay, roll the windows down, hurry, you know, get the AC on. And like, she'll ask me when we're walking out of childcare, mom, is the air conditioner on? And so, I've recognized that's the thing she does, but helping myself understand, like she's sensitive to that. Like I know the car is hot and I see that, but it's not that big of a deal to me. And so one way I think the goodness of fit is me being less sensitive. Sometimes I maybe lack empathy with her sensitive experiences. Cause I'm like, are you being dramatic? Which is not a nice thought.

Lori Hayungs:

But I have called one of my children a time or two, a drama queen.

Mackenzie Johnson:

But it is that difference in our temperament. And so how do we create that goodness of fit. One of the things that we kind of do, I'm not changing her temperament. and even if we go back to that thought of authoritative parenting of providing warmth and having appropriate expectations. Well, I'm not gonna tell my daughter, Oh, it's okay. You don't have to sit in your car seat. Right? The expectation is still to sit in your car seat, but I can anticipate. Maybe we do have the AC on, or we have the windows rolled down or , you know, empathizing even just saying like, Oh, I know that's so hot for you. Let's hurry and roll down the windows instead of, you're fine. Right. That's a non-empathetic response if I said that. I'm working with the temperament. I'm not going to fight it. I'm not going to say, don't feel. You're sensitive. You're going to feel.

Lori Hayungs:

I love that. How do you say, well, don't feel, don't feel. I'm gonna feel it . I'm gonna feel.

Mackenzie Johnson:

What about you? What comes to mind with goodness of fit and sensitivity?

Lori Hayungs:

So I think it's that idea of, so I'm very sensitive. I've always been very sensitive. I cried at every episode of Little House on the Prairie and then I remember thinking, Oh , I wish I wasn't so sensitive. And so one of my children is sensitive like me and we have super sensors and the other two children are not. And so, like I said, I rarely have to raise my voice to the daughter that's sensitive because she's so sensitive. Then there are times where as a parent that I've had to raise my voice with my other two and I want to almost get mad at them because they're not, they're not so sensitive. They're not crying or they're not upset. They must not be taking me seriously enough because if my parents ever had to raise their voice like that, I would have been crying. And yeah, there's that expectation, yes. I need to not have that. They're going to respond differently. And yes, they're hearing what I'm saying. They're understanding what the change in their behavior needs to be. And just because they don't have the same reaction that I do as a child, or I did as a child, does not mean that my discipline is not effective.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It was very effective. It's very effective. I also think of goodness of fit in some ways that we might be very similar. You know, so we talked about the clash of sometimes like you have a good fit with your child and that you can understand them a lot because you're both sensitive, but there's also like a caution there. Right? I know one of the research things we looked at talked about, or one of the researchers you talked to talked about, sometimes we might over empathize with our child. Okay, you know what, I know the car seats are really hot. I get it. And then maybe we don't hold the appropriate expectation for our child because we get it. And that can also cause a challenge of goodness of fit, too. Right? We need to have good expectations , appropriate expectations for our kids. So there's a lot of whether you're really different, really similar, kind of somewhere in between. We still have something to learn.

Lori Hayungs:

And I love that that also allows us to stick true to our Science of Parenting values and that pluralistic parenting. What works as a tool for one parent is not going to work as a tool for another parent. And temperament might be one of those reasons why.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes, yes. We're finally saying it. We've been thinking it since we started talking about pluralistic parenting forever ago on Science of Parenting. And here is like, here's the big message, guys. Every kid's temperament's different. Every parent's different. Every situation is different. That's why there's more than one way to raise great kids.

Lori Hayungs:

Absolutely.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Even if someone did it different than you.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. Exactly. Yes. It's going to look different for each kid as well in your family. Well, let's take some time to look at some tools. So what could we use? What tool do we have? What can we put in our parenting toolbox? That's what we want to do. We kind of want to keep filling your temperament toolbox with tools, parenting toolbox. And so my really simple tool is called...ready? Observation. Just observation. Sometimes we are so busy doing and being that we forget to sit back and look around and think, okay , what's really happening here? What is it sensory wise that I am missing? What is my highly sensitive child seeing, and hearing and feeling that I, as a less sensitive parent might not be, or how about my less sensitive child who is missing the subtle cues of the people around them who think they're being too loud? It's a tool called observation. How about you? What kind of tools do you think about?

Mackenzie Johnson:

Well, you know, I like to create some steps or some framework or a model. And so as we talked about sensitivity and your reality of the strategies you practice as a parent , three words came to mind for me if we understand temperament, what do we do? Like what's our strategy once we understand. And so, as we understand sensitivity, the three words that came to mind for me is we can anticipate, we can empathize, and we can teach. Yeah. So again, I kind of come back to that basic parenting style of providing warmth and responsiveness and holding expectations and appropriate demands for our kids. So if we know our child is sensitive, we can anticipate when challenges might come up or if they're not sensitive, they may not notice. I may need to give them a few extra tools to pay attention to those things. And then we can empathize, whether our temperaments very similar or our temperament is very different, empathizing with your child, validating their experience. It's not good or bad. It just is. And you know, listening to what that is. And then the third one is teaching, right? Our kids are going to have this temperament forever. And yeah, there's going to be layers, right? Development and personality and life experiences that'll fit on that temperament. But our job is not to change it. We already know that so we can teach, right? Maybe if you're a less sensitive kid, you need a few more reminders to bring jackets places, or you need to learn when you're going places you need layers to take on and off, or those kinds of options, depending on what your kid's temperament is. And we get to help teach them those skills.

Lori Hayungs:

And we get to help teach them those skills over and over and over, especially when we know that those temperament traits are falling on those extreme ends of the spectrum. That's where we really have to recognize that we may remind them to take their jacket 16,048 times. And that's because they're on that extreme end of the temperament continuum. And as a parent if we just know that, we become so much less frustrated with the fact that we tell them again and we tell them again and we tell them again, and that's just the way it is.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And we can expect. You can learn to expect that this might be the case. And it's not because you're doing it wrong. It's not because your kid's difficult. It's just, we're going to have to tell them a lot. That's how they're going to be.

Lori Hayungs:

And temperament is that foundational piece. So on top of temperament, remember we're going to layer their age, their development. You know what? Young children use loud voices. And there are some children who are hard of hearing that use loud voices. And sometimes we might have to look past temperament and look at, okay, is there something that is developmentally not correct? Is there something that we need to look at having assessed and, you know , actually using observation or the framework that you shared, it allows us to take in that whole picture of what's happening, what's happening around us, what's happening around our child. And also there are other caregivers. And so we have this whole realm of people that can help us with these observations with anticipating and ultimately these navigate some of the best outcomes for our children when we take it all in.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Good for our kids and good for us to learn a little bit more.

Lori Hayungs:

So I think this brings us to our Stop. Breathe. Talk. Moment. And it's in this space that we bring in our producer, Mackenzie DeJong, and she shares with us something that is a secret to us. And she tries to take us out of our perspective of, okay, well, you just punted and you gave us all the easy stuff. You guys do something harder.

Mackenzie DeJong:

It's really hard to stump you guys though. I just have to say that.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We've been coming through, we've been coming through.

Mackenzie DeJong:

I'll tell you on this one specifically, I thought I had it figured out, and then right at the end, you kind of almost answered my question. So, I'm going to say that I relate to so many of these things that we've talked about today, I, on that temperament scale, am highly sensitive. Like seriously, I relate to Mackenzie's daughter in the temperature thing. I hate sticky things. I'm a texture person. I'm a temperature person. I cry really easy. I am a very sensitive person. And because of that, in some situations I've been misunderstood as being wimpy. I don't like spicy foods , so maybe wimpy or a crybaby or being really dramatic. And I think there's lots of things that play into that. But my sensitivities play into that a lot. That being said, it kind of leads me into the question as well. For you guys as a parent, how can I, if I'm handing over my kid to the babysitter, to grandma and grandpa to watch for the day, to the teacher, to some random person in the store while I go into the bathroom, maybe that's not safe. But , how can I advocate for my child who is highly sensitive so that others don't perceive them as dramatic, as a cry baby , as wimpy, but they see that they're just highly sensitive.

Lori Hayungs:

That's a good question.

Mackenzie Johnson:

It is. Make them listen to The Science of Parenting podcasts. Is that the right answer? I think that's right.

Lori Hayungs:

I think that's the keyword. You said it yourself, advocate, advocate. Speak up and advocate for your child in terms of, do you need to have a conversation at a different time with the teacher and say, Hey, I've been listening to this great podcast. You didn't know that, you know, that my child's temperament is more sensitive. We're trying to give her some tools and techniques as she grows and learns about her temperament and her sensitivity. But I just want you to know that, you know, if this happens, it's not personal. Here's some words that we say. Here's some things that we teach her when we know that it's going to be a bumpy, clustery, hot bus ride. You know , can she sit up towards the front where the door opens? Just offering those times and places for advocacy, you said it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Yes. Yes. And I think of, as I think about like the nine traits, it's not always like, Oh, my child has every single one of these very high. Right. So you'll start to recognize what traits come into play most often, or maybe you're on those most extremes. And so, yeah, if sensitivity is one of them, I think of kind of providing opportunities repeatedly in conversation. I think even with childcare providers, with my kids, on some other traits, helping to remind them like, Oh yeah, I would expect that of her. She picks up on that or yeah, flipping the lights that doesn't usually go well, when we do that at home, that really seems to really overstimulate. So sometimes reinforcing, yeah . Advocating. And that you might, like we said, with kids, you might have to repeatedly do that with other caregivers. You might need to have those conversations repeatedly and casually sometimes, sometimes explicitly, but sometimes casually.

Lori Hayungs:

And thinking also, you made me think about food, introducing food several times in several different ways, you know, whether it's peas or beans, you know, just keep introducing it and not introducing it in a negative way. Right. So , there's a big, long story in my history about liver, liver and I, right? And so, repeated positive exposure to liver may have helped instead of one big negative exposure to liver, right . Those types of when it comes to sensitivity, because those senses are very heightened. So it does taste different to a highly sensitive child. It does feel different. So give me some positive exposure to it.

Mackenzie Johnson:

And that picky eating, that's one thing I don't think we touched on through the whole episode.

Mackenzie DeJong:

It's also me . That is super me, too .

Mackenzie Johnson:

Like that sensitivity of that texture or that taste or feel, that experience. I'm very aware of it versus other, maybe not so much. And so that can be a factor. Yeah .

Mackenzie DeJong:

I was thinking about this, that different exposure, that sort of thing. I actually had this realization the other day, because I am sensitive to texture on lots of food things. I am not a big fruit eater because of the textures of a lot of fruits. But I was like, I wonder if I would like the fruit juices of more of these, because I really like apple juice and orange juice, but I don't eat a lot of apples and oranges. So I'm like, I wonder if I would like more fruits than I think I do if I just did the juice form of them.

Mackenzie Johnson:

You're kind of anticipating and thinking yourself , right? Yeah .

Mackenzie DeJong:

But you could also say to someone, you know, if they're sensitive to foods , so maybe they'd like this, this and this, rather than, they're just dramatic. Just make him sit there and eat sort of a thing. So, all right . I'll stop bugging you guys, but thank you.

Mackenzie Johnson:

Never a bother. We love having her Stop. Breathe. Talk. space. Kenzie kind of reminds us to like, okay, like we talk about in parenting to stop, take a breath, take in this information and then kind of think and talk through some of the specifics you bring us. All right . See you later.

Lori Hayungs:

Well, I'm so glad we got that picky eating thing in there. How could we have forgotten ?

Mackenzie Johnson:

We almost didn't say it. I would say it's changed a lot between my significant other and I like, I always thought like, Oh , you're difficult. Like, why are you being difficult about it? It's like, okay, you're noticing things I'm not. Maybe you're not being difficult.

Lori Hayungs:

Exactly. So that was our first of nine temperament traits. So what we're going to do is we're going to talk about two or three traits, and then we're going to focus on a special topic. And as we talk about these two or three traits, we're going to go kind of deep, just like this. Talk about the bucket that's really full with this temperament trait and the bucket that's not so full of this temperament trait. And how do the ages of children play into it as well as what about the goodness of fit between the parent and the childcare giver . And then what are some tools that we can use as parents.

Mackenzie Johnson:

We'll walk through all of that with all of these. We've got all kinds of good ones coming that we're excited to share with you.

Lori Hayungs:

So thanks for joining us today on The Science of Parenting podcast, and remember subscribe to our weekly audio podcasts on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app. You can watch us on Facebook each week or join us when we go live and take your comments and questions. We're going to be doing that a little bit differently. We're looking for our special topics, I think, this time around. So pay attention to it when we're going to do those lives.

Mackenzie Johnson:

So come along with us, as we tackle the ins and outs, the ups and downs and the research and reality, all around The Science of Parenting,

Anthony Santiago:

The Science of Parenting is a research based education program posted by Lori Hayungs and Mackenzie Johnson, produced by Mackenzie DeJong, with research and writing by Barbara Dunn Swanson. Send in questions and comments to parenting@iastate.edu and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. This program is brought to you by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This institution is an equal opportunity provider. For the full non-discrimination statement or accommodation inquiries, go to www.extension. iastate .edu/diversity/ .