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Three Children… Three Sets of Challenges

by Lori Sciame | February 7th, 2011 | Elementary

As the parent of one boy and two girls, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy major “firsts” three times. First word, first step, first day of kindergarten, first crush… the list is seemingly endless. Experiencing these milestones with each child is fresh and exciting every time. While similar in nature, every child’s “firsts” are unique.

What I also learned from these series of firsts is that because each child is so unique, I could not expect to “parent” them all in the exact same manner. From establishing bedtimes to assisting with school problems, each child required me to adapt my parenting strategies in accordance with their individual personalities.

Here’s an example: all of my kids had friendship problems when beginning school. My oldest child, who is quiet and introverted, had trouble making friends. To help him adapt socially, I spent a lot of time role playing just how easy it is to “extend the hand of friendship.” When my second oldest, a daughter, arrived at kindergarten, she found friends, yet she let herself be told what to do by the other children. To help her, we talked about how the word “no” can be a useful tool.

When my youngest started school, I felt prepared to face any challenge on the “friend” front. Of course, she presented a whole new set of problems. She waltzed her way into the classroom, surveyed the children and asserted her dominance over everyone. It soon became apparent: she was boss. Once again, my parenting skills were tested.

This time, however, I was dealing with a budding bully… one that relished having her own way. I was at a loss, so I visited the local library, talked to other parents, and consulted my mother. Through patience and persistence, I learned how to best address the problem. What worked was a children’s book about bullying. After reading the story together many times, she was able to understand the feelings of others.

If I’ve made parenting several children sound complicated… good! It is. When parenting a number of children, always be aware that what worked for one child may not work for the next. It is counterproductive to think that one way of doing things will be appropriate for every child. Remember that although it can tricky, it is doable. Patience and persistence will always pay off when adapting parenting tactics.

Here’s another example: when my oldest was in middle school, not one child had a cell phone, and when the next oldest began two years later, cell phones were still a rarity. Now, my youngest not only has a cell phone, she has an iPhone 4 (courtesy of Grandma and Grandpa). At first I regretted not saying “no” to the gift; however, when we were lost in an unfamiliar city, the GPS on her phone got us back on track. I was glad I had relented.

But the iPhone presents new concerns for me as a parent. With the older two I did not have to worry about Internet use, texting, or even sexting. Now I must strictly monitor her use of the device, and I’ve even had to set phone free hours.

As you can see from the above scenarios, parents need to be flexible when handling each of their successive children. This translates into understanding the differences in our kids and modifying the way we parent according to individual needs. This doesn’t mean that we do everything differently, just when it is appropriate. Try to relax, and relish the varied personalities you have brought into the world. Those “firsts” are worth all the hard work you put into being an adaptive parent!

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