I have three children and their personalities vary from very spirited and outgoing, to quiet and mysterious. Because they are so different, I don’t treat them the same, and I don’t apologize for it. In fact, they don’t even notice.
Certain things need to be kept on an even playing field, yes, but they don’t handle things the same way, so I treat them and punish them accordingly. I am not talking about favoring, or letting one child get away with a lot more, I just feel like all kids are unique and need to have certain aspects of their personalities nurtured differently. What works for one child to thrive does not always work for another.
Is it fair? Yes, it is fair, and for me, the best way to keep our home running (somewhat) smoothly.
I have a child who is very good about his homework. He gets it done in two shakes, first thing after school. I don’t have to ask him or remind him. He rarely needs help and enjoys sitting down to tend to it.
My other two have a very hard time. It can be a battle just to get through one worksheet. I nag. I withhold snacks and electronics until it gets done. If they ask to do it later, I tell them no, because later for them means a bigger fight later (I have tried it several times). Maybe one day they will notice their younger brother skipping happily outside with a cookie listening to his iPod because his homework is done. Until then, I will be hard on them.
However, if my child who always gets it done said, “Mom can I do this later?” I would agree because I know he would do it without a fight.
My oldest asks for a lot more social time with his friends than my other two. He has never really played well with his younger siblings who are very tight. They don’t leave him out; he just won’t participate if he cannot be the boss. After years of trying to explain to him why this behavior doesn’t work for his siblings, with no changes on his part, it is nice that he is older and can go have the time he needs with friends. He is happy, and my two younger kids are happy. They are perfectly content to stay at home and play with each other and rarely ask if they can have friends over. Of course, if they asked I would accommodate their social needs as well, but why suggest it? Everyone is happy with this arrangement for now, and I love watching the younger two forge a stronger bond.
The child who is so good at getting his him homework done is not so good at the chore thing. He complains, carries on, and drags his feet. I have little patience when it comes to his behavior about this, and he gets punished very quickly because he is always complaining about having to help out around the house. Because the other two are more reasonable and eager to get their jobs done, I cut them a little more slack than I do with their brother. I know they will actually do it, so if they ask me if they can do their chores later, I usually say yes.
Behavior at School
My daughter came home one day crying because she got caught up in a small food fight at school. I think she flicked a blueberry. She and her friends were punished, and she was devastated. I didn’t get a call or a note from school, but she told me all about it. I didn’t punish her — she was already upset enough and has not done anything like it since.
My other two? If they did this, they would be punished. Let’s just say their teachers and I know each other pretty well, and I have zero tolerance with their shenanigans at school. I have to be hard on them because if I don’t enforce consequences at home, they don’t feel guilty enough about being pushed at school to stop fooling around.
When They Get Hurt
My oldest wiped out on his bike the other day. He came in, and after a few minutes (he needed a snack first) casually said, “Hey Mom, I fell off my bike.” There was blood everywhere, and I thought he needed stitches (thankfully, he didn’t). He sat in a chair, finished his snack as I cleaned up his wounds and was off on his bike again. If I dote on him after he gets hurt, he gets upset. He doesn’t want the doting and pampering. My other two would have been wrecked after something like this. They would have needed my undivided attention in order to calm down, and so that is what they would get. No mama wants to see their baby in pain, after all.
Before I had kids, I pictured them to be a bit more like robots. They would all eat the same, react the same, cry about the same things. But nothing could be further from the truth. Just because they are kids, it does not mean they aren’t individuals. They are unique and should be treated that way. Their strengths should be noticed, their soft spots nurtured. I never want them to feel ashamed because they are not as tough as their brother or because they handle things differently than their sister. I want them to be themselves — their own beautiful version of themselves — so I parent them differently based upon their individual needs.