A refrain heard frequently in my office is: “We don’t know what to do with (our child).” Some parents come to my office looking for the perfect formula for parenting their children. I wish I could give it to them. Unfortunately, that formula doesn’t exist.
Books are written for a wide audience. The wider the audience the more books an author is likely to sell. “This might work” is not the bold statement publishers and consumers are looking for. It is, however, the reality of parenting. Even within the same family, different temperaments and personalities call for slightly different approaches to raising children.
What’s a parent to do? While the perfect parenting strategy that will work all the time, every time may not exist, general principles do. Below are three principles or guidelines to always keep in mind.
1. Treat each child differently. Treating each child exactly the same will only produce frustration. Parents will be frustrated along with the kids. Every child has her own temperament and unique way of looking at the world. Each of your children will have his or her own learning style. It makes sense each will call for a slightly different approach to parenting.
2. Avoid Sibling Rivalry. Treating each child exactly the same will most likely create a strong sense of sibling rivalry. Parenting each child exactly the same trains a child to watch their brothers like a hawk to make sure they get everything coming to them! Which would you rather teach your child: that she deserves a new pair of shoes because her sister got a new pair? Or that she needs a new pair of shoes because hers are worn out and need to be replaced? Remember: the goal of child-rearing is to have a healthy, godly, well-adjusted adult. Which value will better serve your child as an adult: I deserve this or I need this?
3. Kids have a strong sense of justice. And sometimes that sense of fairness and justice is misplaced. Our job as parents is to direct their idea of fairness into one that reflects the world as we understand it. Left to develop by itself, a child’s sense of what is right and fair will be pretty self-centered. One of a parent’s jobs is to encourage empathy. Justice and fairness really should be focused on others, not on ourselves.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. At least, not one that will be consistently effective. Not from one family to another and not even within the same family. Learn to look at each child individually and take into account their unique personality and temperament.