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Chances are, you knew your kids were going to be different from one another. But it’s also likely you had no idea just how different they could be until you started raising them—until they hit a certain age and suddenly what you assumed would be true of one of your kids because it was true of an older one—just isn’t. Sometimes it feels like you have to learn how to parent all over again with each child. And sometimes not just with each child, but through each life-stage your children experience.
We may not do it on purpose, but there is a tendency to compare that comes so naturally and so easily. We bring attention to the ways our students are different from their siblings, their friends, our friends, and even earlier versions of themselves. It’s so tempting to say, “But why can’t you just be like______?” The problem is, comparison rarely works. It doesn’t make students want to try harder and it can often lead to resentment toward the parents and the sibling with whom they’re compared. Even within the family, there is no win in comparison.
Sameness isn’t even really a goal worth shooting for. Maybe there are traits in one of your children that you’d like the others to take on. That’s great, but you probably don’t want them to be exact replicas. A better goal is to be intentional in learning, studying, and celebrating the personality and wiring of each individual child.
This week, point out something in your teenager that you appreciate. Find something that you have seen grow and develop in them that is a strength and then tell them how proud of them you are.
Then find something that, at first glance, feels like something you would change—that you would compare to someone else and wish away. And then find a way to leverage it. To see the good in it. For example,
- “I know I’m often on your case about talking too much in class, but I want you to know that I also love how social you are. You are great at managing a lot of friendships.”
- “I know that I get upset when you fight with your younger brother, but I also recognize that you’re just trying to get him to act in a way that is more socially acceptable. Thanks for wanting to help him.”
- “Yesterday we had an argument about playing guitar instead of cleaning your room. While I still want you to have a clean room, I’m also really proud of you for working so hard to learn to play the guitar well.”