Family works: Speaking on ... treating children the same
by ROB COOMBS ID. Min. Ph.D.
Jan 05, 2014 | 1168 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Should we or should we not treat our children the same? Fairness seems to demand that we do so. My mother believed this. If she bought a gift for me, she automatically bought a gift for each of my four sisters.

Although motivated by a genuine desire to be fair, such a practice really is not in the best interest of the child. What is consistently in the best interest of the child is to treat each of our children the same by treating them differently. Sounds confusing, but it’s really not.

Each of our children has different needs. What may be good for one child is not necessarily good for another. I remember when our children were young, should they get in trouble and need discipline, the worst possible consequence for our extrovert son was to be sent to his room for “time out.” He hated being alone. Every minute was like an hour for him.

On the other hand, should our introvert daughter get in trouble, sending her to her room for “time out” had the opposite effect. She wanted to be alone! Sending her to her room was, therefore, giving her exactly what she wanted. So in order to administer effective discipline for our daughter, we would not allow her to go to her room for “time out.” Instead, she had to sit with us. By doing this we treated each child differently, but in reality treated each child the same.

Treating our children the same by treating them differently means we appreciate and understand their unique differences. There are times when one child needs a gift and the other doesn’t, just as there are times one child needs discipline and the other doesn’t.

Ironically, attempting to reduce rivalry and jealousy by treating each child exactly the same only serves to enhance the likelihood of comparison and competition. Children come to expect that they ought to receive a gift or treat just because their sister or brother received one, not because the gift given was actually needed.

Focusing on the individual needs and wants of each child is more likely to produce children who feel loved and appreciated and understood for who they are as unique individuals.

Of course, all of what I am advocating here is based on the understanding that each child is loved equally. Loving one child more than another can cause devastating lifelong wounds for any child. So love and accept and care for each child as an individual. This is the best insurance in reducing jealousy and rivalry. Do this by treating each child differently so you can treat them the same.