After having my first son, I thought I had this parenting thing down! I was that first time mom who read multiple books on how to raise a leader, how to foster individuality and life’s little lessons in raising independent kids. I felt prepared. I knew I could tackle most scenarios my sweet boy would throw at me. My first son is curious, loving, has great manners, eager to please, works hard and is just wonderful. My second son is a bit more ornery, very loving with me (only in private), energetic, and is wonderful too. However, his head strong and strong willed personality, so different from his brothers, threw me for a loop. I was all kinds of confused. How didn’t something work with him, when my other one was so eager to listen to me? I began to doubt my every move. By the time my youngest turned 3, I knew I had total opposite personality children. Not only does one have blond hair and hazel eyes while the other is dark hair brown eyes like his dad, but one is quiet in mild mannered while the other is a loud and rambunctious athletic boy.
Thankfully the more I spoke to my mom friends, I realized that it's actually more common for siblings to have different personalities than similar ones. Whew, I’m not alone. But now what? So back to reading I went to learn how can I be the best parent I can to each of them, when their needs, interests, and demeanors are so different? Now this isn’t to say I have this all figured out, but here goes… I'm sharing what I'm doing and if you've got opposites in your family, I'd love to hear your tips, too because 'Sharing is Caring' with this #momlife business!
Tip #1 - Parenting Each Child Individually
Study your children. What I mean by this is that I paid close attention to listening to them intently. I wanted to try to understand who they are, how they reacted to when I discipline or teach them a lesson, how they acted in group settings like parties or sports, their body language when they would speak to peers or sitters.
Take discipline for example, studying them helped me adjust my reactions so I could be more effective with each of them.
For my sensitive soul son, I need to discipline him privately and down on a knee to make him feel like I’m helping him be his best self. He’s eager to please so it usually only takes one conversation for him to correct his behavior.
But for my energetic spirit animal, my studies taught me, ‘Mama, you better get your game face on if you want him to even hear a word you say’. I purposefully speak very intense with fierce eye contact when instructing him to straighten his behavior. Now he knows to make an adjustment with only a look. You know the Mama look, you do it too, lol.
Tip #2 - Respect Their Differences
Although I thought I was respecting their differences, I read about eliminating the word ‘fair’ from my vocabulary and it taught me think of this in a whole new way. While our parents taught us that fair treatment leaves each sibling feeling like equals, it wouldn’t necessarily fulfill what their personal needs are, so in actuality it leaves one feeling like we don’t care much about what they want.
Let’s take attention needs as an example, one of my sons needs a lot of attention and my other requires more risk-taking and freedoms. So my new way to think of fair is to give one uninterrupted attention and the other the space he desires. That is fair to both of them.
Yes respect is also about praising them for their uniqueness, yet trying not to compare them because that can lead to animosity. Encouraging standards of respect is a life lesson to always consider regardless of circumstance.
Tip #3 - Foster the Relationships
This is one my husband and I are just now beginning to focus on. A long time friend recommended to me that we should have one on one date nights with our kids and next month switch boys. Each month they boys choose a parent and get to pick what they would like to do - this further affirms their individuality. Spending this time together is important for them to feel confident and to make their own decisions without being influenced by their brother.
This parenting method was an ah-ha moment for me. My boys are only 19 months apart (1 year in school) so up until recently, we always chose activities that they could do together or even on the same team. We dictate the compromise between the two rather than allowing their personalities shine in their individual ways. The bonus for me is now I get to have an entire conversation with one and actually get to the point without the other interrupting.
Like I said, I’m learning as I go, but these are a few things are helping me along this parenting journey. My goal is to honor who they each are and help them make their unique mark on the world. And if you have other great ideas, please dm me!
Bye for now, Diesha