Birth Order: Why I Parent Each Child Differently

There's no such thing as one-size-fits-all when it comes to parenting. Here, MomSpeaker Toni Langdon discusses why she takes different approaches to best serve the needs and emotions of her different kids.

I'm a firm believer that we need to raise each of our children differently because we all have different needs, motivations and perspectives.

I often hear people say, "I'm not sure what happened to Sally. We raised all of our kids the same way, but she came out differently!" I have heard parents say to their child, "I don't know why you're angry. Joshua got the same treatment and HE'S not upset!"

We all have different needs at different times. The more we try to "be fair" with our children at every juncture by spending equal time, giving the same exact consequences and giving the same kind of love, the more we're going to isolate our children. Let me be clear, parents need to be in charge and make sure that their children know healthy boundaries and follow the family rules with similar consequences when they deliberately make a very bad choice. However, we also need to take time to think about how each of our children think and conduct themselves individually, especially when talking to them after they have "cooled off."

Here's an example: Nathan and Jerry are twins. Technically, they should be at the same level because they are the same age. However, Nathan needs more help communicating his needs and Jerry is more independent and seems happier. Because of Nathan's challenges he may need more reassurance than Jerry. That's not to say that Jerry should be ignored. Jerry's needs are different. We all have different times in our life when we have different challenges and needs. We all have different "love languages" and our needs may be met differently at different times. The more we can really listen to our children, the more we will understand their behaviors and needs. This isn't always easy.

Here are some reasons to give your child a unique approach.

  1. We all have different needs and we want to be special and unique in our own way. My daughter and I have a private talk time every day. I build in a time when she and I can talk about any problems she is having. After we read together, we turn out the lights out and I ask her if she has any questions for me or any problems that she's having at school or at Daddy's house. She really likes this time and asks some great questions.
  2. Birth order is very important because we want to be sure that we are challenging our kids in different ways. For example, the youngest child needs to be a leader at times and be expected to be responsible (even though they are the youngest) and the oldest child may need to be a follower and not have to worry about being responsible all the time. The middle child may need more dates with a parent individually or praise for being a leader or being a silly follower and not just being the peacekeeper.
  3. Everyone reacts differently when we're angry. We all do things for a reason. Sometimes we need attention, sometimes we need validation, sometimes we need love and sometimes we need boundaries. As adults, some of us have a tendency to shove our feelings inside when we're angry; others may act out aggressively. Some of us get depressed, others get experience anxiety, but we all struggle with how to express our anger or frustrations appropriately. Teaching children appropriate ways to express their anger (especially by your example) is the best way that we can help our kids navigate their feelings when they encounter challenges in their life.
  4. Offer different rewards for outstanding achievements. As parents, we want to reward our children (when they go above and beyond the call of duty), but it's important to remember that we don't all appreciate the same things. One child may enjoy a simple long walk with a parent as a reward while another child may want cash or a toy (no, it's not bribery' it's incentive!).

The bottom line is, taking the time to really understand your child's individual needs is what really matters. If we are careful to not label them as "the needy one" or the "the easy one" and instead help them to feel confident and self-assured because they are special and unique, they will feel valued and be more likely express their feelings appropriately.

Toni Langdon is a single mom of two daughters living in Chester County, PA. Toni is a nonstop mom juggling work, parenting and life. She brings a unique perspective while having a black belt in martial arts, a love for fashion and a passion for giving back. This post is adapted from her blog Tickles and Time Outs

Categories: MomSpeak