Highly Sensitive Children: Making Sense of Outbursts

Do sensitive children have explosive behavior?

Posted Feb 10, 2014

"I have a lot of nervous energy. Work is my best way of channeling that into something productive unless I want to wind up assaulting the postman or gardener." – Ben Stiller


Just yesterday, I got an email from a mom asking: “Do sensitive children have explosive behavior?” and I replied, “YES.” She was desperate (in her message) to find out what’s occurring with her son that he can be sweet and then fiercely angry in the next moment. Unlike those in the mainstream “helping profession” I have a different take on these sensitive children that many find helpful. It boils down to a change in perception from seeing these sensitive children as purely problematic to uniquely talented.

Making the Shift

One key piece of the puzzle for the mom, Mary Rose, that contacted me was that she didn’t see her son’s energy as positive. She wanted to label him as bipolar, manic or some other diagnosis because she didn’t quite understand his energy—his intensity, his primary intelligence, and how his mind-body system works. So I helped her understand a few key pieces of the sensitive children puzzle, which began to shift how she sees her son. They are:

  • Sensitivity = Intensity
    Highly sensitive children tend to have more energy than their more “regular” counterparts. This energy is intense. It is the intensity that most parents take note of especially when it comes out sideways in a tantrum, yelling, or crying fit depending upon age and situation.
  • Managing Intensity
    Children need to learn how to manage their emotions and energy from the get-go. It sounds like a radical shift but it’s really commonsense. Instead of whacking the other kid in preschool we teach little Joey to take deep breaths, pray, take a nature break, or do something to “cool down” before he acts on his anger. If Joey doesn’t learn how to take a sacred pause and cool down (channel his energy) the situation escalates quickly.
  • Using Intensity for Good
    Sensitive children are just that—sensitive—so they drink life in more deeply and can use their energy (emotions, intensity) for good if they find something to channel it into. Like Michael Phelps for swimming (he’s an HSC) or Jack Andraka who at 15 found a breakthrough for cancer (he’s an HSC too). Their families decided that if they encouraged their children to find interests and pursue them that life would be better versus constantly battling them. They were right.

Channeling Energy

Sensitive boys and girls that can shift from joyful to tearful in a moment are highly sensitive with great gifts inside (really). They also need from the very get-go to learn how to direct their thoughts and subsequent intense emotions before they quickly get away from them. Recently, I began working with a sensitive second-grader, Julian, who got in trouble for fighting with the other kids on the playground. But after a few sessions where I taught Julian how to handle himself differently, not throw punches and direct his intense emotions, he returned to the sweet and peaceful child his mom knew him to be. It also positioned him better to pour his intensity into something productive like winning his next karate tournament, which he loves.


Maureen Dawn Healy is a popular author, speaker and child development expert working directly with parents and their highly sensitive children. Her last two books, Growing Happy Kids and The Energetic Keys to Indigo Kids along with popular media on PBS, AOL, Mom.me and more share her unique message.  Learn more: www.growinghappykids.com and @mdhealy

(More on this subject in Maureen’s book: The Energetic Keys to Indigo Kids)

© 2014 by Maureen Dawn Healy
* Permission must be granted for reprint. Any use of the ideas or intellectual capital must be sited in other articles (online or otherwise). contactus@growinghappykids.com