Fair but Not the Same: Helping Ease Competition Between Kids

Written by Mandy on September 18th, 2015

Gentle Discipline

NPN RTD featureThis post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of  Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.

Our children need us. They need our help. They need our time. They need our love. We, my friends, are a hot commodity in the world of our families. Our children’s needs for us don’t change when we have another child, or two, or three, or more. What can change is our child’s perception of what they are receiving. Suddenly, there is another person clamoring for this same commodity – us. How can we be fair to everyone when conflicts arise?

Photo by LoJoLu Photography (Flickr)

Empathize Children may be small but their feelings….oh my, those feelings can be very, very big. Empathize with your children. Let them know you hear what they are saying or showing and that you understand. This doesn’t mean that how they are acting is acceptable. It doesn’t mean that you agree with them. It just means that you are there for them and understand that they are having some mighty big feelings.

Focus on Each Child If life is erupting into a competition, or even resembles a World Wrestling Federation reenactment, it can be easy to become distracted and focus on the competition. Don’t do it. Focus on each child, separately, and what it is they are wanting/needing. Work together to try and come up with mutually agreeable solutions. At the very least, make certain they feel your love.

Give What They Need It may seem easier to just give each child exactly the same things in order to avoid a fight. That isn’t what they need, though. Each child is different. Each child has different needs. You can’t meet those needs by handing out one-size-fits-all items. So give out what they need – the material items that meet their physical needs and all the limitless, unconditional love you can. Because that, my fellow parents, is what they really need and want from you: to know that you love them, with all your heart, no matter what, for themselves.

It’s Okay to Treat Kids Differently There. I said it. It really is okay to treat different kids differently. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to turn your family into a Cinderella scenario with some kids doing all of the work while the others sit back eating popsicles and watching movies all day long. But different people are treated differently, and it is okay as long as everyone is being treated fairly and with respect. If your children are different ages or at different levels, they will understand that they have different responsibilities. Your 13 year old can probably mow the lawn. Your two year old, depending on the child, may not even be able to use scissors safely yet. You can’t expect your two year old to do the same things. At the same time, your 13 year old can probably be trusted to head out on his bike while the toddler needs adult supervision still. Perhaps one of your children enjoys watching independent French films with you while another wants to spend time kicking around the soccer ball. You are raising individuals, and they should be treated as such.

Teaching Skills: Brainstorming, Negotiation, and Compromise In our dream world, our kids would always know and recognize that we love them no matter what. They would get along all of the time. And fluffy pink unicorns would poop rainbows that tasted like grapes. Wake up. Life isn’t perfect. If you want your kids to have the skills to work things out together, you are going to have to do some prep work. It takes time in those early years, but it pays off. Trust me on this. So help them develop those skills of brainstorming possible solutions, negotiating compromises when needed, and empathizing with other human beings. Model it. And when you screw up? Model how to apologize and make things right. These are great skills which will last a lifetime.

Love Your Kids This seems like a no-brainer. Of course you love your kids. You know that. I know that. But, do your kids always know that? Life is coming at them full force, their little love cups are getting sloshed around and being emptied, and they need you to help fill them back up. So seek them out for hugs and smiles and kisses. Call them to share things which you find. Let them know you are honored to share your life with them. Make geeky jokes together to share. Have impromptu dance moves in the van, in a full parking lot, with people staring at you, and only caring that your kids are having a good time with you. Show up when they need you. Keep your promises. Do stuff with them. Listen to their dreams, thoughts, and interests. Don’t waste this time. Enjoy them and love on them today.

Interested in reading more about the concepts in the seventh chapter of Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings? Check out these posts by Natural Parent Network volunteers:

My Thoughts On Competition Resilience This Chapter of “Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings” is all about easing the competition between siblings. Kat @ MomeeZen has experienced competition happening between her kids. But here, she shares her thoughts on positive competition and what she’s doing to build resilience and help buffer her kids from {negative} competition.

Family Game Night and the Green Monster: Helping Children Deal with Competition Some simple strategies helped Mandy’s family turn game night around. Now they look forward to geeking out with awesome games and even greater times together. Check out the tips and some suggestions for great gateway games at Living Peacefully with Children.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings Chapter 7 Using your words with your kids can work to help everyone make rational decisions. Emily, at Embrita Bloggings, discusses how using her own words has helped her family to better work together.


About The Author: Mandy

My NPN Posts

Mandy O'Brien is an unschooling mom of five. She's an avid reader and self-proclaimed research fanatic. An active advocate of human rights, Mandy works to provide community programs through volunteer work. She is a co-author of the book Homemade Cleaners, where simple living and green cleaning meet science. She shares a glimpse into her life at Living Peacefully with Children, where she writes about various natural parenting subjects and is working to help parents identify with and normalize attachment parenting through Attachment Parents Get Real.

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