My daughters are polar opposites in personality. One is adventuresome, the other cautious. One is bold and brash, the other quiet and reserved. One has never met a stranger, the other takes forever to come out of her shell. One considers the feelings of others first, the other has to be reminded. One is aggressive, the other passive.
Raising these girls takes a lot of prayer, ingenuity and thought. What works for one child doesn’t work for the other. What’s best for one child may not be best for the other. The decisions we make about parenting one child may upset the other child.
It’s so tempting to lump kids all together and try to parent each child the same way. We don’t want to seem to be playing favorites by doing something differently for one child. We want things to be equal and fair across the board. We count the number of presents underneath the Christmas tree to make sure they’re equal. We try not to spend more time at one child’s activities than we do at the other’s. We read parenting books that give us “fool-proof” ways to parent our kids.
The truth is there’s no one-size-fits-all parenting method — even for kids in the same family. Parenting is a daily challenge of trying to find the right thing to say, the right thing to do, the right way to reach our children’s hearts. And that’s rarely the same for every child.
We’re about to make some big decisions for one child that may make our other daughter unhappy. It’s not because I love one child more than the other. It’s not because I’m out to alienate one child. It’s simply that the way to reach one daughter’s heart is very different from the way I can reach the other daughter’s heart.
Our kids are individuals. To lump them all into the same pile isn’t fair to them. We have to figure out how to reach each child best. God has given them each their own individual personality. Psalm 139:14 says that each of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and we have to remember that when we parent. When we parent without taking individual personalities into account, we aren’t being the best parents we can be.
Sometimes it’s hard to make different decisions for each of our kids because we’re afraid our kids will see us as unfair. We can avoid that by talking with our kids about the decisions that we make. Point out times when you’ve made what seems like an “unfair” decision in that child’s favor. Explain that God gave each of us a different personality, different gifts and different talents and that means that you have to make different decisions for each child.
Don’t be afraid to try something different with one of your kids, even if it’s not the best decision for all of your kids. God doesn’t treat all of us exactly the same, but He loves us all equally. It’s the same way with your kids. Love your kids equally but parent them individually.