Mom Always Loved You Best!

It’s perfectly normal to find that your relationships with each of your children are different.

Parental love is an infinite, renewable resource. It may not feel that way, however, when your personality is more compatible with one child’s than another’s. It’s wise to acknowledge to yourself (although not to your children) that it is easier for you to bond more with one child than another. Being personally honest can be the start of turning it into something positive.

Tips for . . .

  • all parents
    • Regard each child as a unique and creative individual, avoiding verbal comparisons to their siblings and peers, such as “When your brother was your age…” or “Your friend never does that.”
    • Tell your kids what’s special about them and that your love for them will never end. Some parents think children just know these things. They won’t, unless they hear it directly from you.
    • Recognize that some children are gifted in areas that their siblings are not. When one child is exceptionally musical, mathematically precocious, or talented at a particular sport, parents may spend more time, energy, and money on that child’s pursuits. To siblings, the difference in parental attention can be obvious. While there’s no magic solution to the “fairness equation,” it is important to acknowledge the gifts of all your children, and to find a balance in the time and attention you offer each one.
    • As long as your children follow the family rules (such as resolving conflicts nonviolently and using an “indoor” voice at the dinner table), let them handle sibling disputes on their own. If you must get involved, offer strategies or suggestions rather than taking sides.
    • parents with children ages birth to 5
    • As a child’s personality traits emerge, appreciate and acknowledge them without labeling their traits. Always being known as the “defiant one” puts a negative spin on a determined, independent nature, and becomes an expectation the child may feel compelled to meet.
    • Start a tradition of one-on-one activities with each of your kids and make it a ritual that lasts throughout childhood, if possible.
    • parents with children ages 6 to 9
    • As your children begin formal schooling (whether in a classroom or at home), remember and remind them that people (including themselves) possess many kinds of intelligence—including adeptness at interpersonal relationships, physical strength and agility, and so on.
    • As your children’s interests and skills emerge, you’ll find one child may enjoy things you enjoy, while another child does things you don’t really like to do. Continue to engage in shared interests, and ask each of your children to teach you something they like to do, or to join you in exploring a new activity or interest.
    • parents with children ages 10 to 15
    • Peer relationships become particularly important at this age. While it’s wise to know what’s going on with your children’s friends, your kids also need some room to navigate these relationships and figure out what they want and need from peers. Even if you like one child’s friends more than another child’s, hold your tongue unless you have reason to be concerned about their physical or emotional safety.
    • For many kids, this is a time of figuring out who they are, topped by the roller coaster ride of puberty. It’s easy to shame them by consciously (or unconsciously) comparing them to younger children who are typically more sweet and agreeable, or to older teens who have started to “come into their own.” Recognize that some growing pains are normal. It’s important for parents to find ways to accept and support children through this crucial period of development.
    • parents with children ages 16 to 18
    • Your teen is in an interesting phase of life: maturing rapidly, but still experiencing a lot of brain development. You may find yourself cycling between delight at the person they are becoming, and dismay at the choices they sometimes make. Remember that maturation is an individual process; it’s a time when it’s important for each parent to identify specific and unique bonds with their emerging adult children.
  • Getting inside your teen’s world and finding out why they are “taken” by an idea or activity can be a bonding opportunity. Understanding their passions can lead you to realize all your young adult children are your favorites in different ways.

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