Having children with different personalities in the one family can feel like living in a war zone.
Wouldn’t it be great in a perfect world if our children were all the same. We’re work out the how to for one, and just copy it for the others. Well, notice I said a ‘perfect’ world. Unfortunately our world isn’t like that and life is not ‘perfect.’
The thing that we often forget is that our children are individuals. They are each unique with their own personalities and personality traits. Those traits can be okay or annoying for us, depending of course on which ones clash with who we are, and which ones compliment who we are.
When our child’s way of being and doing things mirrors our way, life’s good. When our child’s way of talking, acting or reacting clashes with the way we think things should be, or they remind us too much of our parents or siblings, life gets difficult to manage.
The same thing is true for your children. There will be things that one of them does that absolutely triggers the other one. They might have completely different viewpoints on the same topic, for example. A reason for all out war!
Here are some ways that you can support these differences in personality and ensure each child feels loved and acknowledged for the individual they are.
Are you acknowledging who they are?
Have you considered if you are acknowledging their individuality? Do you listen to both sides, both parties point of view and then discuss options with them, having heard both stories?
Sometimes when one set of behavior triggers us, as adults, it is not easy to listen to that point of view. We become emotional and reactionary inside and it impacts our ability to be impartial or to sit without judgement or prejudice and listen.
The best thing you can do is begin to notice if this happens. Become aware that you’ve gone into your emotional reaction space. Take a breather, a short time out and bring yourself back to a place of calm. Notice that the behavior has triggered you and pay attention to your mindset, what you were thinking when that happened. It might help you to understand what is triggering you.
One anxious and one not, what do you do?
If one child is always cool, calm and collected, and the other is anxious and uptight all the time, they are going to have different ways of dealing with the same situations, naturally. You may notice that your calm child gets upset and frustrated when your anxious child is continually anxious.
Is there are way to allow the calm child more freedom? Do they need to depend on you as much, or can they get themselves to school, for example, while you support the anxious child?
The key here is to not focus ALL of your attention on the anxious child. This will create more tension between not only the siblings, also between you and your children.
Using some of the other techniques that have been covered in specific posts about supporting a child with anxiety may help too.
Talk about their differences
This ties in with acknowledging their individuality and takes it a step further but openly talking about the differences as a family. By doing this there is an opportunity to see where your thinking and approach to life is the same, and where it is different.
Having this conversation and speaking about the things that upset or trigger each other, everyone will be aware of why things occur when they do. There will be more of a common level of understanding about who each of the family members are, as individuals.
And don’t forget to include yourself and your partner in the conversation. Often we are unwilling to share a lot of ourselves with our children, because we see them as children. They are human beings, just like us.
It is a great experience to share our truths including our fears, sadness and life journey. Children can learn a lot from our sharing by not feeling alone in their experience. This holds true for siblings sharing too.
Maybe an older sibling has had an experience of bullying at school. By sharing their experience of that with the younger child or children there is a bond formed. Talking about what works and doesn’t work is also helpful, so that children learn from experience.
It’s okay to be different
Life in a family would be pretty boring if everyone was the same and did the same things day in and day out. Children with different personalities in the same family are learning what life in the broader world is like. In workplaces, for example, they are sure to come across people with different personalities to them. Learning to accept that and work with it, rather than against it is a great skill. And, learning that skill can begin in the family.