Recognizing Unique Personalities among many Siblings

When you’re the parent of multiple children, you may wonder if you’re doing enough to help each of them develop into the unique individuals they are meant to become. Kids need to know that you recognize what makes them special, so here a few suggestions to aid you in that process.

Let kids express themselves 

No two children are alike, so celebrate their differences! Allow them to express what makes them distinct from their siblings. Give them opportunities to pursue their own interests and express their ideas freely. Children begin to learn about themselves and their world through this type of exploration.

“My parents just let us, be us. Whatever we were interested in they let us pursue, likes sports and gymnastics. They let us develop our own style, like our clothes. They encouraged us to pursue our own dreams.” – Sarah, 35

Avoid labeling

It can be easy to assign a child a role like “the responsible one,” “the tomboy” or “the baby” but these labels place expectations on kids they shouldn’t have. Even seemingly positive labels can interfere with a child’s ability to develop an identity all their own.

“I was the oldest, and growing up I always knew that I was expected to be ‘the responsible one’ and ‘set a good example’ for my siblings. When I got a little older that pressure to be responsible and set a good example caused me to make some decisions that I really regretted, because I was afraid to disappoint my family.” – Anonymous

Be open to new ideas about parenting

Parenting is a continual learning process, and it’s understandable that we might try to apply the same approach that was successful with a first child to subsequent children. However, different kids can require different parenting styles. Try to avoid comparing kids and instead try to really understand each child’s individual strengths and weaknesses.

“I think it’s so important to really try to figure out each child, get inside their head, listen to them, and to remember that fair does not always mean equal. Each child is different, will have different needs, and will need to be parented differently. What works for one kid, might not for another.”-Becky, mom of four children

Make time for individual attention

Carve out special time for each child to spend with them one-on-one. Learn about what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, what gets them excited and what challenges they’re having. Let them see that you know who they are as individuals outside of your family dynamic. They will benefit from this type of interaction and so will you.

“Every morning before school I would get up early to spend time with my mom who was getting ready to go to work. I learned how to do my hair and makeup by watching my mother every morning. It was a great way to have some ‘girl time’ with my mom.” –Alissa, 28

Tips to try today

  • -Have kids take turns doing tasks with mom and dad like helping to cook, doing household projects or running errands to add in some individual time spent together with each child.
  • -Give each child an opportunity to “be in charge” by choosing a dinner option or picking the television show your family will watch that evening. These simple choices allow kids of different ages to contribute to the family in their own unique way.
  • -Have each family member share their highs and lows of the day at dinnertime. This allows each child to “have the floor” while others listen. This ritual also lets kids practice their conversation skills and encourages them to care for and support each other.

Life is busy in a household with multiple children, but each one deserves to be recognized for what makes them unique. Remember to celebrate the individual differences of all your children and the richness that individuality brings to your family.

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