“Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need.” - Rick Riordan, The Red Pyramid
If you have more than one child, you’ve probably worried at one time or another about whether you’re helping each child feel special. I have two children who were born five years apart, so I had it easier than many families to be able to give plenty of attention to both.
But, regardless of the size or spacing of your family, there are some things you can do that will help you acknowledge the needs and interests of each of your children. If we work to meet the unique needs and interests of each of our children, they are more likely to feel that life is fair and they are special.
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Here are some ideas on helping each of your children feel special:
Observe Your Children to See that You’re Following Their Interests and Needs
This is a fundamental Montessori principle and one that is helpful for any child at any age. Here’s one of my most popular posts on Montessori principles at Living Montessori Now: Top 10 Montessori Principles for Natural Learning. Your children will have an easier time learning something they’re interested in, and you’ll show your children respect for who they truly are by following their interests. If you’d like to create some educational activities based on your children’s interests, you’ll find lots of ideas in this post: Should You Use Unit Studies?
Honor Each Child’s Unique Personality and Learning Style
It’s easy for children to be very different from one or both of their parents and even different from anyone else in the family. My family has found the study of personality types fascinating and very helpful in understanding and appreciating each family member’s unique temperament. We used the “Kiersey Temperament Sorter” (found in Please Understand Me II). My immediate family as well as my parents and siblings have all taken the simple question-and-answer test, and it’s helped us all understand each other better. TurtleHead has an interesting series on the Myers-Briggs for Children. (Note: the “Kiersey Temperament Sorter” is a variation of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
I also like the 5 Love Languages for understanding both children and adults. Here’s a post at Living Montessori Now with links to resources for the 5 Love Languages as well as other resources on helping find and follow your child’s unique learning style: How to Help Your Child through Natural Learning.
If your children feel understood and appreciated for who they are, they’re more likely to feel special.
I think this video is a thought-provoking reminder of why each child’s unique learning style is so important:
Be Sure Your Children Know You Appreciate Who They Are, Rather Than How They Look
You’ll find more about this in this post: Top 5 Tips for Raising Children with Good Self Esteem.
Encourage Your Children’s Efforts
Research today says that it’s most important to encourage effort. This goes perfectly with Montessori principles. I wrote more about this in A Montessori Approach to Praise.
Use Positive Communication and Discipline Techniques with Your Children
I also have discipline articles at Living Montessori Now on communication and positive discipline techniques that show respect for your children while meeting their need for internal and external discipline.
As a Family, Try to Support Each Child’s Extracurricular Activities
We loved centering our family vacations around our children’s interests and activities. I have a post here on the joys everyone can share by encouraging each other’s activities: Don’t Forget Family.
Your children can be each other’s best supporters. Check out this moving video of brotherly love and support for a brother’s sports activity:
Try to Spend Alone Time with Each Child
As homeschoolers, my husband and I were lucky to be able to individualize our children’s education and spend extra time with our children. While this is much harder if you don’t have as much time to spend with your children or have a large family, spending special time with each child is priceless. My son, Will, was an only child for five years and two days. That gave my husband and me lots of opportunities to observe his needs and interests and let him know he was special just as he was.
One of my greatest opportunities to develop an extra close relationship with my daughter, Christina, was when she moved to England at age 16 to compete in ice dance for Great Britain. Because she was just 16, I moved with her and lived in England for a year and half. (See my About page for more information about my family.) Will was 21 at the time, but he lived at home with Terry until Will moved to San Diego shortly after turning 22. The time living with Christina in England gave Christina and me an amazing closeness as well as memories we’ll always treasure. Will and Terry became even closer during their time living without us, too. Even though it was very difficult to not have our whole family together for that time, it really showed just how important it is to have special alone time with each child. Rebekah from The Golden Gleam has a helpful post for large families: Schedule Time to Play with Each Child in Large Families.
Remember to Give Affection and Say “I Love You” to Each Child
This is simple and obvious, but it helps to have special times to say “I Love You” or give affection in addition to spontaneous hugs and “I love yous.” It was easy for my husband and me to be affectionate with our children, and our daughter, Christina, made sure we never forgot. Christina was always very affectionate and even wanted me to sing the Barney “I Love You” song with her every night before bed. She got us into positive habits such as ending every phone call to our close family members with “I love you.” Lots of sincere “I love you’s” are good for any child (or adult).
Parenting any child has unique challenges. At the same time, if you focus on meeting each of your children’s needs and interests, you have a great likelihood of helping each of your children feel special.