NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Each and Every Individual Child

Each and Every Individual Child

            Are all your friends alike?  Are they carbon copies of one another?  Or is each an individual with unique talents, quirks and their own special laugh? We expect adults to be individuals, to have likes and dislikes, to be good at some things and not at others. But it often surprises us that children are unique individuals with their own tastes, styles, and abilities.

            Where does that individuality originate?  All children have different rates of development and different personalities.  Your behavior toward your children is determined in part by the age and de­velopmental stage of each youngster. For example, you probably have tended to treat all your children in a somewhat similar way at the same age or level of development. The way a toddler shows affection to a toddler is different than the way a teenager will accept affection.  

            Birth order and family size also influence your children's development. The experience of an only child is different from that of a child in a larger family. An older child's experience is different from a younger one's:  Because of birth order and family size, no two children experience the same family the same way.

            Although most parents may think they accept their children, what they do or say may tell children something else. If parents compare, constantly correct, or ignore a child, the child may not feel loved or valued or even rejected from the family.

            Sometimes we talk too much about a child's mistakes rather than his good qualities. Sometimes we use labels like "dumb," "bad," or "stupid." Sometimes we are critical of things in our children that we don't like in ourselves. Sometimes we ignore one child and give lots of love and attention to another. Such treatment can make a child feel worthless and unloved.

            Each pair of family members has a unique relationship. A child relates in dif­ferent ways to his father and to his mother. His sibling relates to each parent in his or her own way. Each sibling relates to each brother or sister in a particular way. Children are quite sensitive to these differences within family re­lationships; they monitor them, respond to them, and relate to one another in a manner based upon the nature of their experiences and how they perceive them.

            You may subconsciously be helping sibling rivalry if you ever say things like, "How come you don´t wake up on time? Your brother never has trouble with that.  Each child is a unique individual, with his own strengths and weaknesses. If you compare them, then the children will strengthen their own comparisons, and dislike whatever seems to be unfair in those comparisons.

            What can you do to show your children that you value them for who they are?  Following are three suggestions for strengthening the individuality of each child.

            “You have talent!”   Every child is good at something. Maybe your child is athletic or creative or dramatic or smart or good at caring for younger children. There are many different talents. Even some things that we see as faults can also be seen as talents. For example, the child who cries easily may be very sensitive or dramatic. The child who is stubborn may also be intelligent and able to see things a different way. The child who is "into everything" can also be seen as energetic and curious.

            “No one has every talent”. Often children compare themselves to someone they want to be like. They may become very unhappy that they are not more like their hero. We can help by understanding their disappointment but reassuring them that we are glad for what they are. "I like you just the way you are!"  We can remind him that the talent he does have is important to us.

            “You can use your talents to help others”.  Teach each child how to use her talents to help others. For instance, you may have a child who would rather study than play with other children. Since it's important for children to have friends, you might encourage your child to invite another child over to study. Or encourage her to help someone who has a hard time in class. This would allow the child to use her talent with other children while doing what she enjoys. She will see her ability as strength and not a weakness. Though she might not grow up to be a great tennis player, she might become a great educator!

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