A mother asks what she should say to her 9-year-old daughter who complained, after being chided for bad behavior, that her brother does not suff er the same reproach.
This is a worry for many parents; should they treat all their children the same?
Of course not.
Each child is unique with a differing temperament, interests, reactivity, abilities, intelligence, sensitivities, and so forth.
Children are not a one-size-fits-all proposition when it comes to just about anything other than basic household rules, such as putting dishes in the sink and putting clothes away.
The nine-year-old was miffed that her consequence seemed more severe than what her brother had to endure.
Frankly, after hearing the mother out, it was clear she had done a great job. The girl said she wanted to be treated more like her brother.
“Really,” replied mom. “Let’s think about that for a bit. He is four and does four-year-old boy stuff. The consequences are less and smaller because he does less significant, smaller things.
“You are nine and tend to do bigger things because you are older and have more opportunities to do bigger, problematic things.
Your consequences are different and probably bigger.
“But if you want to be treated more like your four-year-old brother, I can do that. Your bedtime will be earlier. I will turn the TV on for you and tune it to cartoons.
“You will be able to play outside, but only on the walkway in front of the house. I will feed you appropriate snacks at certain times and choose the menu. I will pick out your clothes to wear. I will check to make sure you brushed your teeth.
“And, at the end of the day, I will give you a bath.”
It took only seconds for her daughter to back off from her demand. This would probably work with old-ish toddlers who regress a bit when a new child is born.
To compete with the attention that the baby is getting, young children will often start behaving like babies, sometimes even with bathroom issues.
Try talking to your child, “I can see you kind of miss a lot of the things we did when you were a baby. To make you feel more comfortable, let’s have milk in baby bottles, food pureed, lots of nap times, changing of diapers; no tv, computer, books, toys, games, or playing with friends.
“You can only do these things when you become a big girl/boy. Go think about this, and then let me know if you’d like to be the big brother/sister or the twin.”
If they want to try it out, go along with it. They will quickly decide that being the older sibling has more fun and options attached to it.
Another time this issue of treating kids all the same comes in with money in wills.
Of course, you don’t treat each child the same financially.
However, sometimes parents make the bad choice of willing substantial amounts of money to the irresponsible (drugs, alcoholism, laziness, whatever) in the hopes of a miracle.
Instead, they should communicate to that child that the worst parts of their choices will not be supported.
Check with a financial attorney to take care of this so your good kids don’t get attacked by the others in courts. It is actually disrespectful for parents to not identify and respect the differences in their children.
You don’t make them all play the violin, nor should you make them all play sports.
Let them find their niche and support that.
Treat every child as an individual.
Dr. Laura (Laura Schlessinger) is a well-known radio personality and best-selling author. She appears regularly on many television shows and in many publications.