This is a very tricky question to answer, because all children are different. No one size fits all, so what is right for one child is not necessarily right for another. Maybe your eldest child is very sensitive and your youngest is very tough, so how do you approach them when you need to reprimand them?
Maybe you have to adopt a softer line with the more sensitive child, and be more severe with your youngest, but then you can be accused of favouring your oldest. But of course you are not. It is completely normal that you might empathise more with one of your children, particularly if he has a complimentary character to yours, but this is not to be confused with favouritism. You are managing the situation with different strategies for each child.
So long as you avoid giving things to one child and not to the other, then you are certainly treating them all equally. It is of course possible to give something to one of them and something different to the others, but make sure they all get something which is interpreted as fair for everyone. If for example you take one child on vacation with you, and leave the other at home with grandparents, then this is definitely not fair and would certainly be showing favouritism towards one over the other. The problem would then be that you create jealousy between your children, and resentment towards each other. If you can’t take them all, then you shouldn’t take any of them.
Favouritism is to be avoided at all costs, as if you want your children to grow up and get on with each other when they are adults, then you have to be careful not to create resentment and jealousy between them when they are youngsters.
How many times have you had to argue with your child when it is bed time, despite your child knowing exactly what time he is supposed to go to bed? However, as I’m sure you know, getting your child to finally go to bed, and on time, can be a real mission. But it doesn’t have to be! By giving your child a warning period of 15 minutes before he is due to go, it will avoid conflict and hassle when the time actually arrives.
First of all, you need to have introduced set bed times for your child from when he starts to go to nursery school. In any case he will need regular and sufficient sleep once he goes to school, as he will now be officially learning, and being academically educated. He needs to be fresh for school if he is to learn well, so bedtimes become very important.
Often your child will say to you, when it is time to go, “can I just finish this program or game”, or “I’m nearly finished”, or “just a few more minutes please”. Then it can easily escalate into an argument if you say no. But by using this method every night, it just becomes the normal routine, and non negotiable. It definitely makes your life easier and less stressful, and helps your child.
How often have you found yourself faced with an angry child, who just won’t listen to you, and starts screaming their head off? It has happened to me a few times, and is always very challenging to handle. But it is possible to manage this kind of situation, I can assure you, but it requires a lot of patience, control and effort.
The key is to remain calm and let them ‘blow off the steam’. Very often they will explode for something as simple as being asked to move their shoes which have been left at the bottom of the stairs. Or you walking in front of the TV when they are watching a program. If it interferes with what they are currently doing, it will particularly annoy them.
When they explode, and you feel your own frustration rising, take a step back. If you allow yourself to get angry, the situation will degenerate into a shouting match. They may only be 8, and still quite small, but it is amazing just how loud they can shout! When you feel this happening, step back and start counting to 10 slowly in your head, and never give them the satisfaction of seeing you lose your cool.
This will demonstrate to them that they cannot rile you, and you always remain calm in any situation. They want a reaction from you, but by not giving them one, they will learn that you are always in control. Once they have finished shouting, you can then calmly reiterate what you were saying to them.
If you behave like this, on the very rare occasion that you do actually feel the need to become angry, they will instantly know to back off, and comply with your request. Your controlled anger will always be a more effective strategy. It is a skill which needs to be practiced, as I’m sure you know how easy it is to lose your cool with your child. It took me a couple of years to find this strategy, after making many mistakes myself.
One of the perennial problems you will come across with your teenage child is being listened to in an argument. Your child will have the same problem with you. Neither one of you is listening to what the other one is saying as emotions are so high, and you believe you are in the right.
There is a way that both of you can say exactly what you want to, and also be forced to listen to what the other one is saying. It is a simple thing to introduce, and involves a drinks coaster. Keep one of these in every room, so that whenever a dispute crops up, you are both able to reach for it.
It works with the following rules. If you have the coaster in your hand, you can keep talking for as long as you want, and the other person is obliged to listen until you have finished. Once one has finished, the coaster is handed to the other person who can do the same.
The very fact of passing the coaster ends up decreasing the tension, as both of you know you are being heard and getting your point across. It also ends up improving your communication together, which is a major challenge with teenagers.
This tip also works with younger children, and can be introduced at an earlier age, as soon as you feel tensions increasing with your child on certain subjects.