The Overly Sensitive Conscience

Dear Reader,

Do you have one of these children? I do. They beat themselves up for things that are not sins or at least are in a grey area. And even if the things are really wrong, they chastise themselves more than necessary. This may not sound like a huge problem. Discipline becomes easy; it is accomplished by a look. But really falling off the right path in this way is no less harmful than falling off on the other side. It is still not  a godly attitude, and I have found little outside resources to give me help in dealing with it.

When my other children do wrong, hitting one’s brother let’s say, discipline is fairly straight forward. We talk about the wrong, why it is wrong, maybe spank, and apologize. We also talk about the heart attitude as in “It wasn’t very loving of you to hit your brother. What do you think you could have done instead? How would you feel if he hit you?”

But when my one child begins to beat herself up over something, it is much harder to deal with because it is all mental and not physical. The solution requires her to control her kind and thoughts and that is not easy for nay of us much less a 6 or 7 year old girl (which is about the age this started for her; she is older now).

I have quoted relevant Bible verses to her like “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But ultimately, the work of it is up to her, and it is not easy work.

But I was very heartened to find this issue addressed by Charlotte Mason in her second volume, Parents and Children [my edition was put out by Seven Treasures Publications in 2009]. Charlotte tells the story of a girl who chastises herself because she is too sick to kneel on her bed to say her prayers and another who thinks maybe she cheated on a math problem though the evidence shows she didn’t. These are exactly the sort of things my daughter would struggle with. Miss Mason observes that such an attitude is more common in girls and also in the home-taught child so I guess we were off to a bad start there anyway. Here is what she says about dealing with it:

“Healthy interests, out-of-door life, engrossing and delightful handiworks, general occupation with things rather than with thoughts, and avoidance of any word or hint that may lead to self-consciousness or the habit of introspection, will probably do much to carry the young sufferer through a difficult stage of life.” [p.106]

In other words, a full life with much distraction and little time for wallowing in one’s own thoughts.

If you have children to struggle in similar ways, I’d love to hear from you and to know how you deal with it.

Nebby

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Sometimes I do have that child – other times not, or so it seems. But I was most definitely one of those children. If you weren’t, in order to better understand her struggle, I recommend reading The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron. About 20% of the population of every species is “highly sensitive” and I believe God made us that way to ensure the survival of each species. Its very interesting stuff! Please don’t push her to do things before she is ready, or take any punishment to an extreme.

    Reply

  2. Thanks! I’ll look into it.

    Reply

  3. […] have written previously on the topic of the conscience, most recently here, but also here, here, and here. My general thoughts on the topic remain unchanged. They can be summed up as […]

    Reply

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