Regardless of how many children you have, you want each to feel cherished and loved by you. Every child is different, and the uniqueness of each is important — and sometimes even challenging.
According to the National Institutes of Health News in Health, six out of ten children in the United States develop secure attachments to their parents, and the remaining four avoid their parents when they are upset or resist their parents altogether. Studies show that this lack of connection can make children more prone to behavioral problems.
Tips and techniques to help ensure that your children feel special, regardless of their personality traits, follow.
Get to Know Each Child
Perhaps the most basic step in making your children feel valued and loved is to get to know them. This process can be challenging, especially if you don’t have much in common. However, the experience can be memorable and enjoyable if you approach it correctly.
Every child’s cognitive and physical development occurs at varying rates. Children possess distinct strengths and interests, and require diverse levels of support to reach their full potential. While no two children follow the same developmental pathway, most will achieve predictable milestones as they grow.
Your children’s personality traits become more evident, and this is not always a pleasant time. As kids explore themselves, they can develop relationships and habits that can frustrate you. Their distinct character attributes should be explored, supported and celebrated — even the ones with which you may not agree. This isn’t to say that you should support unhealthy behaviors such as drinking, smoking, etc. You should always discourage such dangerous or harmful behaviors.
Getting to know a shy or resistant child could take time, so be patiently persistent. Let kids share with you at their own speed, but remind them that you are excited to learn more about them when they are ready.
Be Willing to Adjust Your Parenting Style
While every child needs structure and clear expectations, not every child will be receptive to the same parenting style. You must be willing to adapt your approach to meet your children’s needs. Most of the time, your kids will want to please you. However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t test boundaries. This is a developmental certainty. Your children will break the rules at some point, and how you respond to the situation can impact their future behavior.
Some children may be quite sensitive, while others may require a more structured disciplinary plan to convey behavioral expectations. If you aren’t willing to change the way you approach parenting, you and your child will both end up frustrated. Many parents worry about getting parenting “right” and compare their techniques to those of other parents. Remind yourself that all parents are having similar experiences, as they, too, are working to develop loving relationships with their children. Consider sharing your situation with other parents, because it may be mutually beneficial.
Invest in Your Child
As you work to get to know your children, take a sincere interest in their passions and interests. This may take some creative thinking: Take your high school football player to a college game at your alma mater, escort your budding pianist to the symphony or join your artist at a painting class. Your children will remember that you spent time with them, and that you took time out of your day.
You may not have a lot of money to spare, but not every investment is financial. The investment of time and energy is also valuable, such as prioritizing your child’s basketball game or spending countless hours at the kitchen table assisting with the math concept he can’t seem to grasp.
Be Patient With Your Difficult Child
Not every child is a ray of sunshine. Sometimes your child’s personality can change overnight. Children with challenging personalities require extra time and patience. But remember that every child has the potential to be a well-adjusted person. Be honest with yourself about your child, even if you struggle to connect with her or understand her idiosyncrasies. Acknowledge that your personalities do not have to be the same, that sometimes differences and distance can be beneficial.
There may be legitimate causes for difficult behavior: ADHD, anxiety, depression, learning disorders. Additional support or resources could be beneficial, so advocate for your child. It’s not always easy to admit that you need help, but be willing to admit when it’s needed. Your child’s teachers and pediatric providers can be great resources, so keep the lines of communication with them open.
While your children’s strengths may not be the same as yours, remember that they are important to your kids and are imperative in defining their character.
Celebrate achievements, even when they don’t seem like a big deal to you. It’s just as valuable to acknowledge hard work, dedication and improvement. A child who is working diligently to achieve a goal should be commended with just as much enthusiasm as a child who excels naturally. This doesn’t mean that you must reward your children for every goal they score in a soccer game. Attendance at practice and support of their teammates are also important skills for them to possess. Their personalities may develop on a continuum, and celebrations or setbacks made along the way can be impactful. Don’t avoid failures: There is always something to learn when things don’t go well. Discuss what didn’t go well, and what can be done to make improvements.
Highlight Every Member’s Distinct Role in Your Family
With every child born into a family, there may be concern from older children that parents won’t have enough time and love to go around.
Human beings are social by nature and, to thrive, need to feel valued and connected. With each new sibling comes the potential for sibling rivalry. Make sure that every family member knows his or her place. Give each child age-specific chores, and make sure your kids understand that their active participation in your family is desired and essential. Your straight-A student could assist her younger sibling with some challenging homework. Maybe your budding chef can create the week’s menu and help write the grocery list, which is a good skill to develop. This shows that you can use your children’s characteristics to benefit the family. Also remember that some kids may not know their role in the family, and may need some time to figure things out. Help them explore what possible roles could be, and allow them to sit back and observe the rest of the family if necessary.
Children are not made to be one-size-fits-all. Every child brings a special set of characteristics to your family. By using some of the techniques and suggestions listed here, you can show your children how important they are, and how each child’s one-of-a-kind personality is a good thing!
Charlotte Rensberger, MSN, APRN, PNP-PC, is a PNP with 15 years’ experience in pediatric nursing. She works in a newborn nursery in Southwestern Michigan.