Multiple Children, Multiple Personalities

Parents should expect diversity — between themselves, between them and their children, and between their children. A rule that makes sense to one parent may not feel right to the other. What works with one child may not work well with another. It is this natural human diversity that makes discipline more complex.

With some children it takes a lot of discussion and effort on your part before they will give their consent and accept discipline. Other children prefer being obedient to taking the time and effort to resist or fight your rules. Some children like to argue with correction, while others are reluctant to speak up. Some children demand to know your reasons, while others will accept rules without many questions. When it comes to discipline, “different strokes for different folks” is a fitting cliché. Every child is different from every other.

That's why one of your first jobs as a parent is getting to know this stranger who has been born into your care. What temperament, what sensitivities, what aptitudes, what personality does this little person possess? Just because your first child was docile and non-demanding doesn't mean that your second child will be the same way.

The parents of this child can still have the same family rules and values for both children, but the way they assert and enforce that discipline will have to be different with each child. Parenting is an art, and the art of early parenting comes down to this.

  • You must learn the human nature of this stranger born into your care so he or she begins to feel understood by you.

  • You must learn to accept this new child's human nature so he or she feels welcomed by you.

  • You must learn to lovingly connect with the human nature of this child so he or she feels securely bonded with you.

  • You must learn how to “dance” with the human nature of this child so you can lead the boy or girl in how to grow, and he or she can learn to follow your lead.

Does positive discipline mean treating all your children the same way?

No. Although you may have the same disciplinary code — or values — with all your children, you will have to vary your disciplinary approach based on each child's temperament and personality traits.

Within the first three or four months of your child's life you should have some sense of his or her temperament (calm or excitable, for example), sensitivities (comfortable or uncomfortable with touch or noise, for example), aptitudes (quickly or gradually responds to visual or spoken cues, for example), and personality (seems quiet or sociable, for example). Your first job is understanding the individual makeup of the little person you are going to have to work with as a parent.

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