Each of My Children Needs Different Parenting

By Abby Bordner

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I used to believe parenting had to be fair and equal. If I was a good parent, my responses would be consistent and my parenting predictable and with equity.

But the truth is, I’m always adapting my parenting to the needs of each of my children, based on many factors, including their age and temperament.

My two kids used to engage in some rigorous comparison and several demands that they get equal treatment, shouting, “It’s not fair!!” many times a day. I could make myself crazy trying to give them each “the same” in their minds but when it comes down to it, they don’t need the exact same things from me and sometimes what they get isn’t exactly equal to that of their sibling.

First of all, they are almost five years apart. So, my expectations are different for each of them.

Second of all, my son is highly sensitive and usually responds quickly when my tone changes or I get impatient. And my daughter is a more independent thinker and challenges me with her own agenda more of the time.

Third, my son needs more time and space to process information and requests. My daughter is more physically affectionate and getting close and engaged helps to motivate her.

There are so many reasons I respond differently to my children at different times. The goal of parenting isn’t to create automated consistency and, in fact, each situation requires me to consider many factors:

  • Assess what is really happening from a broader perspective. (Is there something else contributing to this situation? Do I need more background information?)
  • Consider what my child needs most right now. (If she could speak from her greatest need in this moment, what would she tell me?)
  • How can I best support my child’s unique ability to problem solve? (What does my child need to feel successful?)
  • How can I provide connection with my child to help them get through this? (How can I use our relationship to approach this situation and strengthen it?)

Parenting isn’t a cookie cutter technique or the same approach that works all the time. You know that! We have to be creative problem solvers in order to authentically show up, in each moment, and be what our children need. If you develop the skills to do this, you’ll learn to trust yourself as a parent. One of my greatest successes as a parent is to know that I can approach just about any situation and have the tools I need to manage myself and connect with my child in a meaningful way. The actual solution to the problem is secondary and we will work together to find our way.

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