If you have more than one child, you’ve probably realized how different your kids are. Each one has their own personality, learning style, and abilities. We try to be fair and consistent but all too often we find that what works with one kid, doesn’t work with the other. I still remember how I thought that by repeating my son’s bedtime routine with my daughter, she would sleep through the night just like he did. Well, I was completely wrong. The songs that lulled my firstborn to sleep just seemed to make my little girl want to play. That was the first lesson of many.
My son loves to read, my daughter not so much. One needs help to do homework, the other doesn’t. The list goes on and on, as any parent of two or more kids will tell you. I’ve realized that if you tailor your parenting style to each child’s personality, everything seems to flow better. The rules are the same, but what changes is how I explain and enforce them.
Here are a few ways I do that in my house:
I pay attention to what motivates each child.
If your goal is for your kid to read more, find a topic that he or she enjoys (sports, music, art, fantasy) and find time to read together. Or if your child enjoys being praised, use positive reinforcement to call out good behavior. Other kids simply want to excel in school, so explain how behaving well and studying daily helps succeed in life.
I understand that one child is more visual — and I cater to that.
If you make a chart for them, it’s easier to keep track of their good and bad behavior and it helps teach them self-discipline by being able to monitor their actions in a more concrete way. Another great idea? Take pictures of your child’s daily routine, so he or she knows the order of what needs to get done (for example: eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, go to school, do homework, play, eat dinner, shower, read and go to sleep) and has visual cues to keep him or her on track.
For the child that doesn’t need visuals, I use reason.
Charts might not work for them because they are more interested in why they need to play after they do their homework. With them, be prepared to answer but also be clear in setting limits — unless you want to be stuck in an endless loop of questions. I’ve also found that setting a goal is very useful: if you want to have extra time to play, watch TV, or read, you have to do your homework first. You should not be explaining every single thing, but rather setting an objective and explaining that we first do the things we have to do so we can later do what we want to do.
I understand that one child gets more distracted than the other.
If you have a child that is easily distracted or gets overwhelmed, break down tasks and emphasize one goal or rule at a time. It also helps to time-box homework in chunks of 15 minutes and allow your kid to have a snack or stretch in between. When explaining rules or objectives, be very concrete.
Just keep in mind that adjusting your parenting style and how you enforce discipline at home does not mean you should use your children’s differences to compare them. Learn to recognize each child’s strengths and weaknesses and love your kids just the way they are.More On