Fostering Uniqueness

Learn How to Parent Your Children Based on Their Individual Personalities

Gena and Ed Ellis have three children, ages 21, 16, and 13. 

“We were scared to death about parenting when our first was born,” recalls Gena. “I remember the day we brought him home. Before he was born, family and friends were constantly around us and then, ‘Poof!’ – they were gone, and we were responsible for this new little person.”

Through the years, the Ellises discovered that while they grew more confident in their parenting, each of their children was also unique in how they responded to their parenting. What worked well for one didn’t always work well for another.

“Ed, our oldest, made us look like wonderful parents who really knew what we were doing,” Gena said. “He was a self-starter and highly motivated. He talked a lot and asked questions constantly. He had a strong will but was not a defiant child.”

When their second child, Samuel, came along, he was happy and laid back – perfectly content to be quiet and on his own. Gena and Ed eventually realized they had to be more intentional about engaging with him.

happy little boy with skateboard

The Ellises’ third child has given them a run for their money. He needs more attention and has been harder for them to understand. From a young age, he has had an extremely strong will and questions authority. Sometimes, he even appears to pride himself on being a challenge.

Learning to adapt and parent to your child’s uniqueness can be a real challenge. Sometimes, it seems like a more uniform approach is the only way to be “fair,” while at other times, tailoring your techniques to each personality can have very encouraging results. Even if it feels like too much effort or an unfair approach, know that parenting to each child’s uniqueness can have wonderful results on their development, as well as your relationship with them!

Strategies for Parenting to Your Child’s Uniqueness:

Know your children.

Be observant. Learn about who they are versus who you want them to be. Children have their own likes, dislikes, aspirations, talents, and ways they
prefer to receive love.

Don’t compare your children to anyone.

It goes without saying that every person is unique. But when it comes to your kids, it can be tempting to compare them to each other, and sometimes even to yourself and your partner. Instead, work on seeing and appreciating your child as the unique human being they are.

Give each child what they need.

Common health needs are fairly similar among children: Make sure they sleep for a certain amount of time, they’re eating a nutritious diet, and so on. But mental and emotional needs will differ from child to child.

Some children need more structure, while others thrive on affirmation. Parents may give one child “the look,” and they stop whatever they are doing. Yet, giving “the look” to your other child would be a waste of time because they don’t take it seriously. Some children are wired to come in and get their homework done without any prompting, while others need help getting down to business.

When it comes to quality time, all children need your presence, but they often want it in different ways. Some just like you to sit with them. Others prefer for you to engage with them in an activity. Adjust your parenting style accordingly, guided by what your child’s needs, and watch your relationship thrive.

Parenting to your child’s uniqueness takes time, energy, patience, creativity, (Did I mention patience?), and often, a willingness to step outside of your comfort zone. Ultimately, the goal is for parents to be the support that their children need them to be. This is one of the ways our children can become the people they were created to be. HS

Picture of Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE

Julie Baumgardner, MS, CFLE

President and CEO, First Things First

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