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Parenting Styles

All Children Are Not Created Equal


All Children Are Not Created Equal

“Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.” ~John Wilmot

All children are not created equal. We recognize this when we have more than one pregnancy, when our friend’s child starts to walk and talk quicker than our own and when we see grades on report cards that allow for improvement. And yet, we so often feel compelled to treat our children equally when it comes to parenting.

If there was one style of parenting that worked, there would not be 3 million parenting books to help teach you the way that works for you and your child. Like the acquisition of most life skills, effective parenting is trial and error and the learning curve is often huge!

When most moms get together and talk about their kids, they spend the majority of their conversation swapping stories of how different their children are of each other and their friends. And then they will talk about what discipline or praise works for them. It is often quite different, just as different as our children. And yet, experts still write books which we read on how to do it the “right” way. Really?

My daughter is a gem. Sensitive, kind, insightful, super smart and well mannered, she brings us great pride. She is also incredibly manipulative and dramatic and uses her intellect to outsmart friends and her little brother to get what she wants, sometimes in deceptive ways. Confident and hopeful, she tries to work over her parents. Doesn’t she know these skills are genetic?

My daughter is also a perfectionist and has anxious tendencies. I know when I talk to her, I have to be sensitive to how she responds to criticism. She works hard to be the best and when she realizes she isn’t all the time, she struggles with this knowledge. My parenting style with her is direct and firm, but with a lot of reinforcement and praise for her positive behaviors to make sure she recognizes her strengths.

My son is a love. I have frequently labeled him “the happiest boy alive.” Charming, witty and always laughing, he truly seems to embrace every moment of life’s joys. I have also labeled him “the beast.” Impulsive and contrary, with an inability to sit still anywhere, he is tough to monitor in public without fearing arrest.

My son is not a perfectionist, with exception to his perfect ability to accept that he will not do everything well. He is quick to give up when he is frustrated and moves on quickly to the next task at hand, comfortable with his level of success. My parenting style with him is also direct and firm, but with more encouragement to keep trying until he does what he sets out to accomplish. He needs continuous redirection and a push to plod forward no matter how tiring or frustrating the task.

As their personalities develop and their behaviors change, I am more aware of how differently I have to treat them, but yet not let them in on the secret, because anyone who has more than one child knows, they are constantly watching for favoritism and discrepancies between how they are being treated. Gender differences and age can also impact how we parent them, but eventually we realize, it’s because they are simply different people, regardless of maturity or gender. By the way, I do think gender makes a big difference in how we parent at times, but that is a different discussion.

So how do you know the right style of parenting for your child? Start with knowing your child and seeing them for who they are. Then take the advice, your own or someone else’s that you have been given and try it out. I really am a firm believer that effective parenting comes from trial and error, which can be time consuming and frustrating, but once you find what works, you are blissfully happy…right up until you and your child change again! And know yourself. If you are given a suggestion that doesn’t jive with your personality, it’s not going to work for you because you won’t be comfortable and it won’t work for your child because they will see it doesn’t fit you. For example, if someone suggested I monitor my son’s every move and redirect his behaviors whenever I see them become negative, it would not work. I believe in fostering independence and learning from your own mistakes. If I were to monitor to his every move, I would get annoyed and he would become dependent on me to know when he was doing something right or wrong and it wouldn’t create the desired result.

So just as much as children are not created equally, neither are their parents! How much trial and error got you to where you are today? My guess is plenty. Sometimes scrapes and bruises help remind us to jump over the rock the next time we see it in our path. And sometimes the scars we endure help define who we are. Error is okay if we learn from it. Embrace what you learn and regroup when it’s not working, with the confidence of knowing we all are in this big learning curve together and with enough patience and effort, it can all work out.


Dependence or Independence? It’s Your Call


Dependence or Independence? It’s Your Call

What is the goal for your children? Independence or Dependence? With the end result in mind, you can tweak your parenting style accordingly.

Of course you want them to tie their own shoes and do their homework unassisted, but it doesn’t happen without a few long, tiring lessons in between. In the beginning, we do everything for our children. We change their clothes, we teach them words to use and when to use them. We tell their bodies when to sleep and how to do it on its own. We determine exactly what goes into their bodies overseeing food intake, medications and immunizations. We monitor their every move. And then, at some point, which is different with every parent, we tell them that they are on their own and pray, beg, cry, scream until they do it “right”, a.k.a. Our Way.

And then the strangest thing happens…they don’t always do it Our Way. So we are left questioning our parenting skills and feeling guilty and looking to the professionals for solid advice, which is never realistically solid, because here it comes…effective parenting is not one size fits all!!

Here’s the real issue: before our children were even born we had expectations for them. We dreamed what they’d look like, how they’d act, the occupations they might try, the ways we’d love them and teach them to explore the world. When they don’t meet our expectations, we start to question what we are doing wrong and try to regroup. We never want them to hurt or feel pain, but we know they have to learn from their mistakes. And when they do start to hurt, we start to scramble to make it better.

We promote dependence on us, the parents. We tell our children to follow our lead and do as we say, but to think on their feet and make good decisions for themselves. It can almost be as confusing as saying don’t talk to or trust strangers, but be respectful and listen to your teacher on the first day of school when you don’t know them at all. We are teaching our children to TRUST and in turn, must learn to TRUST ourselves and the skills we have taught them. This insight is what will teach them independence. Learning to trust in oneself and the decisions you make, but also the importance of asking for help when you need it.

In order to build trust and confidence, the base building block of independence, we must allow our children to make decisions and live with them. We should continue to offer advice and support, but ultimately let them decide. When your child wants to sit up and read at night instead of sleeping, they will then experience the natural consequence of being tired the next morning and not wanting to get up. If your child will not eat their dinner, they will experience the natural consequence of being hungry when the food is no longer available. When your older child does not do their homework, they will experience the discomfort of a poor grade or repeating a subject. It is not your role to ignore, but to encourage their positive choices and offer suggestions when they make the ones that don’t work for them. Our sense of control over our child’s behavior is our most common misperception. The control we have is to support and love in whatever form that fits. We can not control their behavior, but we can control how we respond to it.

If anyone tells you this part of parenting is easy, it’s because they no doubt, do not have children. The transition of letting go of perceived control may be the hardest part of effective parenting, yet the most beneficial for both you and your child. Just ask the professionals.