Why You Need to Treat Your Kids Differently

When munchkin #1 was small, I read a parenting book in which the author (a pediatrician with 8 kids!) said he parents each one of his children differently. As a mom of a high need baby, I was so worn out by carrying and nursing him almost 24/7, my jaw dropped when I read that line. I remember telling hubby about it and declaring that, “This guy is crazy! How can a parent have the mental, emotional or physical capacity to use a different parenting style for each kid?” I was having a hard enough time just keeping mine alive … seriously! 😉

It wasn’t until munchkin #2 showed up that I began to understand why we need to treat our kids differently. Of course I love, appreciate, and value both of my kids as equally as my imperfect self is able to, but I don’t always treat them the same. Why? Because they have completely opposite personalities and temperaments. Yup, you could say hubby and I successfully cloned ourselves, haha.

E was (and still is) the most careful, cautious, and detailed kid I know. Even as a baby, he knew without us ever mentioning it that the top of the stairs was a dangerous place to be. He would always steer clear of it, going so far as to stick to the wall opposite of the staircase as he walked by. What about C? This adventurous, fun-loving kid is the reason they invented baby gates and why we finally had to buy and install one at the top of the stairs. She’s also the one who insisted on trying salsa as a toddler and wouldn’t stop crying about it until hubby gave her a bite … then resumed her crying when she realized it was as spicy as we said it’d be! E, on the other hand, would’ve heeded our warning the first time we gave it (I think he only tried salsa recently!).

That said, E and C are very people. And different people have different strengths and weaknesses. They also have different needs.

E needs lots of downtime and touch, so after school I’ll sit with him on the couch as I work and he reads or plays on the iPad. I’ve gotten used to him resting his foot on my leg or sitting close enough so our knees touch. He does his thing and I do mine and he’ll occasionally pause to show me a cool app he downloaded or ask me to choose a robot for him to use in a game.

C needs attention, but action, too. For her we’ll snuggle together for a bit, then play a board game or cards. She’ll draw pictures and have me color them. When we sit together on the couch, it’s more face-to-face so she can tell me—in great detail—about her day. I know all about who likes who in her 2nd grade class (man, are kids maturing faster these days or what?!) and what they ate for so-and-so’s birthday celebration (the last one was Oreo cookies in 2 flavors).

And because our munchkins are so different, we encourage and discipline them in different ways, too. We are a little more lax with E since he’s so rule-based already, but are a bit more strict with C because (as hubby understands all too well), she tends to push the limits. We push E more to try new things because he likes to play it safe (hm, I wonder where he got that from?), and we support C whenever she has a new interest (her latest thing? spy gadgets!).

So I totally understand now what the good doctor was saying about treating each one of his kids differently. It’s not because we love one more or less or want to show grace more to one than the other. It’s because we’re trying to love and nurture them in the specific ways they need to be loved and nurtured so they have the best chances of becoming the man and woman God intended them to be.

I like how this parenting article I read recently put it (it’s one of the best I’ve read, seriously!): “If we are in tune with the characteristics that make our child unique, we will have a better understanding of when they may need additional support, and when and where they will thrive.”

I love how the writer used the word thrive. Sure, the first step we parents need to do is to keep our tiny humans alive. But hopefully, with God’s grace, we can move beyond that to help them do more than survive: To thrive.

Take a listen to Shawn Hook & Kurt Hugo Schneider’s cover of Hercules’ “Go the Distance”. May we help our kids to go the distance in life.

What kind of parenting style did you receive and how did it help or hinder your growth?