When I had more kids I knew I’d have a lot more work (and love!) on my hands, but what I didn’t realise was that I was going to have to be three quite different parents altogether. It can be confusing and sometimes time-consuming, so here’s what I’ve learned in case it helps other parents navigate this tricky part of parenting.
1. Their age dictates your behaviour
My boys are 1, 5 and 6 and are obviously at quite different learning stages. For example, my eldest knows not to draw on the walls and if he does he’ll get angry mum, but the baby hasn’t grasped the concept yet so my response to him doing it will be much more understanding and educational – kind but disciplinary mum. While the act itself and my feelings about it are the same (really, really annoyed!), I have to parent them in individual ways which are both fair and reflective of their age.
2. Different personalities
Children from the same family can have very different personalities which is all part of the fun, however it can mean your parenting style needs to change for each one. Overall there will be consistency of course, but what I mean is that different personalities learn and respond to things in different ways, and so what parenting methods you use for one child might not work for the next.
This is certainly the case in my family where I have one who is a bit of an introvert, another an extrovert, and the other – well, not sure yet but he’s definitely a bit of a busy beaver and loose cannon (third child and all that)! For example, telling my five-year-old to put his shoes and socks on is quite simple but with Mr Six I have to get on his level, have eye-contact and actually point to the shoes while I say it – unless I fancy screaming the request about 15 times at the top of my lungs, prompting a meltdown from both him and me. And yet he’s great at playing independently, whereas his younger brothers require me to be a lot more hands-on.
3. Abilities and issues
You also need to take into account children’s different abilities and issues (especially if there are any special needs such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorders). So if your child had a learning difficulty then you would be a lot more patient and helpful with something such as reading or writing, where perhaps you could be a more laid-back parent with a child for whom literacy or concentration comes easily.
4. Birth order and gender plays a part too
I think the order the children were born in also effects what kind of parent you are to them. With the eldest they feel a bit more on your level as the head of the kids and so you give them more responsibility and even use different language sometimes. My middle son just has to roll with the punches (which luckily he’s quite good at), and then the baby is a lot more demanding because of course he requires much more help with basic tasks and is often very clingy. I have all boys so I can’t speak from personal experience about parenting girls, however I imagine that having children of different sexes would also dictate your parenting styles.
Basically it’s a juggling act
Essentially I’ve learned that as a parent of multiple children you need to look at all of the above aspects for each of them (age, order, personality, gender, issues and abilities) and then adapt yourself to be the parent that they individually need and will respond to best.
I’m not going to lie, it’s a constant juggling act and requires a lot of patience, trial and error (I’m still getting the hang of it), but in the end it’ll be worth it to create the best relationships possible with your children, plus a happy and functional family unit. And if your partner is on the same page with the different parenting hats for each child, well, that’s even better.
Need some support to be the best parent you can be? Our Parent School parent coaching experts can help. Click to find out more or book a one-on-one session.