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If you have multiple children with different personalities, is it possible to parent them all the same way?

Even if you just have two kids, you know the pressure to treat them both the same.

I am the proud parent of three smart, handsome, curious sons. I often refer to them as "The Boys.” It would be so very tempting and easy to parent them exactly the same way and to make the three of them conform to me. Yes, they are all my sons, but each one of them is a fearfully and wonderfully made individual.  

I attempted the “all-for-one” parenting style for a while. The rules and consequences were the same for all. Bedtimes were the same for all. I had an interesting encounter with my then 5-year-old son where he asked me why his 14-year-old brother got to sleep downstairs, and he had to sleep upstairs with us.  

This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road in parenting.

I recognized that I have three sons in three different stages of life. The recognition that I have to communicate, discipline, and spend time with each of them differently caused me to become Three Parents: Advisor Mom for my oldest; Relator Mom for my middle son and Hands-On Mom for my youngest. I now try to meet the individual needs of each of my children, and worry less about what they consider “fair.” I have become the parent that they need instead of the “throw noodles on the wall and see what sticks” parent. 

In order to become the best parent they need, I use the following steps:

  1. Know your child: 
    I am very clear on who they are. Each of them has their own likes, dislikes, and aspirations. I am able to recognize their moods - when they are hungry, sad, or just need time alone. I spend time with each of them. I would take my oldest grocery shopping with me. He was leaving for college and I wanted to teach him about shopping and meal planning. My middle son and I talk as I drive him to school. My youngest wants to watch movies with me while he holds my hand. I am being three parents all at the same time.
  2. Don’t compare your children to each other:
    As a young person, I was compared to another family member. As a result, I vowed to see the unique value that each of my sons brings to the world. I am conscious not to say, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” We often have children who make parenting them seem ‘easy’ because they are compliant or have an easy-going disposition, while your other child is defiant, stubborn or moody. It is natural to want them all to be the same, but it’s not realistic.  
  3. Realize that this parenting style takes time, energy, insight, effort, and adaptability:
    Using this approach to parenting will make you tired. It takes time and effort. It takes time responding to individual needs rather than reacting to the tyranny of the urgent and just reaching into my parenting bag of tricks.

My life as a parent is full. I may feel pulled in several different directions, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I see my sons growing into the young men that they were created to be. This job of parenting may require me to have three different personalities, but the end result is worth it.

 

Written by Gena Ellis

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