Most parents try to treat all of their children the same way. We know it’s important to be fair, but is it really possible to be equal when it comes to our kids? Linda Morgan, editor of ParentMap and author of the book Beyond Smart, explains more.
Do we really play equal with our kids?
We don’t play equal with anyone. We react to different personalities and temperament. Our kids are all different –with individual needs, personalities and quirks. And our own personalities differ; the way we interact with our kids is very much dependent on their temperament and ours. We can always be fair, but not always equal.
What else influences the way we treat our kids?
The culture – outside influences and changes. What might be true when you raise one child might no longer be relevant even a few years later. There are changes in technology, in media, in safety concerns, things like cyber bullying, rules about how kids use cell phones or Facebook. Birth order also affects the way we treat our kids. We might have greater expectations for oldest kids and give them more responsibilities. And gender. But we know that parents treat boys and girls differently from babyhood on. And we realize boys and girls come with inborn differences that affect the way we relate to them.
Do kids notice that things aren’t always equal?
Of course. But a lot of that’s just normal sibling stuff. The trick is parents must be clever and strategic about appearing equal. If one child thinks his parents like his sibling more, he’ll hate the sibling. Don’t talk up the other kid’s straight A’s, for example, in front of his brother.
What can we do to be as fair and equal as possible?
Set the same rules. Set the same rules for everyone. Privileges will change, but rules shouldn’t. They all might have chores and have set times to do homework, for example. These might vary according to their ages, but basic rules don’t have to change.
Don’t compare. Comparing kids is poison in the family. That’s just asking for trouble. If you compare siblings directly in front of them, one sibling will resent the other because she’ll think that you like her less.
Create one-on-one time. Though spending time with your children together is a great way for everyone to bond, it’s also important to invest in some one-on-one time with each child. Even if you aren’t spending the exact amount of time with each child, at least make that you are spending some quality time with each one.
Sometimes, it’s just not fair. Don’t try to be equal and fair to all your children at all times. Different people have different needs. Tell them that. And remember - if we were to treat all our children exactly the same, they would still grow up thinking we didn’t!