When it comes to raising kids, one size doesn’t fit all. Parents of more than one child know that every child is different and will react differently when faced with the same situation. Kids are also likely to react differently to the same parenting techniques. While it is important to be fair to all of your children, adjusting your parenting style to fit the needs of each individual child can help each long-term with their development and behavior.
As a mom of six, I constantly have to check myself and my interactions with each child to make sure I am using the best techniques to fit an individual child. I have a child that will almost always do what I ask, the first time I ask. I have another that needs repeated reminders to complete the same task, and another that forgets to do the task but is hurt by reminders because it makes him feel incompetent. For this child, I have to wait for him to remember on his own or ask questions that prompt him to remember, such as, “Do you have practice after school?” which causes him to remember that he needs to bring the clothes he would have otherwise forgotten.
How do you go about adjusting your parenting style to fit a child?
Do your research - You are the expert on your child. Take note of how they respond to different kinds of discipline, rewards, and encouragement. What types of situations are the most troubling for them and where do they excel the most? Read articles and books on parenting and discipline styles, talk to their teachers and other caregivers, and ask your child about their feelings. This will help you understand their temperament and give you an idea of what might work best when it comes to discipline and helping them face challenging situations.
How kids handle stress can be a great indicator of the best way to judge what type of response they need from you. For example, one of my children needs a hug when he is upset, another finds physical activity is the best way to release their stress, and another wants someone to listen while they talk about their feelings. None of these responses to stress are wrong, they are just different. You have the opportunity to help your kids work through things in a way they feel most comfortable.
Do a self-check - After you have an idea of your child’s temperament, it is time to do a self-check. What is your temperament and what is your go-to response when you are mad, sad, and frustrated? How does it line up with the best way to handle those same feelings when they arise in each of your children? What are some common conflicts or situations your child faces and how can you change your response to your child to make the discussion more productive? This process takes some time to figure out and will involve trial and error, but the effort is well worth it when the communication improves between you and your child.
Teamwork - Talk to your child’s other parent, teachers, and caregivers and find out what is working (or not working) for them when it comes to handling challenging situations with your child. Share what has been successful for you and whenever possible, try to create consistency. If your child is mature enough, discuss with them what they respond to well and what may be making situations worse for them. Try to be honest and flexible when coming up with techniques that work best for your family.
Adjusting your parenting style to each child in your family takes additional work, especially in the beginning, but it can help build a supportive and healthy relationship between you and each of your children; it will also benefit you as they develop skills they need to better handle situations they may face.
Sarah is a wife and a mother of six children, including triplets.
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