When I married my husband nearly 13 years ago, I had no idea what was in store for us. I always wanted a big family, but didn’t know what that meant exactly. I had no idea the journey it would take us on the loss we would experience along the way. I dreamed of having polite , well-mannered, compliant children. And then I woke up. HA!
I’ve been a parent for going on eleven years now. Small in the grand scheme of things, but long enough that I have learned a few things along the way. We have four children, one of which is a carbon copy of myself, one that is a pretty even mix of my husband and I and two that are my complete opposites. Seriously, they couldn’t be more different and yet, they each have their own unique differences from each other.
It has been a real struggle, at times, learning how to parent my two children that are really no more similar to me than an ape. The oldest has a few of the firstborn qualities I have – structured, cautious and controlling, achieving – but that’s where our similarities stop. His personality is completely opposite of mine. He is imaginative, fun-loving, energetic, outgoing, enjoys being with others, loves Science, engineering and history. He is also far smarter than I ever was and therefore he continues to push me as we continue our homeschool journey.
My youngest is a classic last born – fun-loving, uncomplicated, manipulative, outgoing, attention-seeker and self-centered. She is full of life, joy and spontaneous beyond all belief. She frustrates me almost hourly, yet brings me more joy than I every imagined. She loves music, singing and dancing and spends most of her days changing outfits or dressing up as a fairy and playing out what “play” she’s created in her head. She wants to learn, but has no patience to sit still, so we’re still working on that.
So how do you parent your polar opposite?
- Prayer – It’s not easy and it takes a lot of prayer. I have made more mistakes than I care to admit and I still fail daily. But by starting my day with prayer and learning how to pray for them more specifically, it has made a tremendous difference. Power of a Praying Parent, has changed the way I look at my children and my prayer life for them.
- Patience – It also takes a lot of patience. Pushing them to be the over-achiever I am does not work well and usually ends up in an argument, one that wasn’t necessary and didn’t have to happen. They both love to learn, but they learn in their own way and at their own pace…which frustrates me to no end. However, I am learning to see the joy in watching them grow and learn.
- Learn their Love Language – When I first got married, I read the book The 5 Love Languages. So when I became a parent and realized there was one for children I picked it up immediately and read it from cover to cover. And the first thing I realized is that my oldest isn’t me. He has his own love language and he needs to be loved in that way. My youngest also has her own love language and just because her personality is similar to our oldest doesn’t mean she feels love the same way. Once I figured out their love languages, it became much more clear what needed to happen. And it wasn’t their fault…it was mine.
- Learn their triggers – Learning what frustrates them will help you better understand your child and in turn, make you a better parent. My oldest is set off by high-stress situations and a fear of the unknown, so we do our best to avoid them. However, when they can’t be avoided, we take the time to explain what will happen and how best to handle his emotions. My youngest is fueled by those situations, so we are continuing to work with her on how to keep her excitement and emotions under control as well.
- Spend one-on-one time with them – Once you know their love language, it is important that you spend time doing what they love. Spending some one-on-one quality time with them, so they can get to know you and you them is a wonderful way I have found to connect with each of my kids. Since it is more of a struggle to parent your opposite, make sure you take the time to spend with them. They can often see you favoring another child as proof you don’t love them…or at least not as much.
What do you find is the most difficult aspect of parenting your polar opposite?
This post is part of the Marriage & Motherhood Mondays series. To see others in this series, simply click the image below.