Parents… Children… All different!

Parents… Enfants… Tous différents !

Let’s avoid thinking that there is one right way to raise children and that we’re bad parents if we don’t follow it.

When we go to a restaurant, we find several starters and various main courses on the menu. It would probably never occur to any restaurant owner to offer only one choice for the starter and one option for the main course. The reason for this is quite obvious: all customers are different and therefore all have different needs and desires!

Why should parenting be any different? Why do we want to believe that there is only one ‘right’ way to raise a child? That there is one recipe that can work for everyone? Even the best recipe in the world isn’t to everyone’s taste and the same is true for children.

All children are different, with different needs. Some need constant discipline, others do not. Some need lots of cuddles, some don’t. Some need lots of caring while others react better to firmness.

Parents with several children find out for themselves that what worked well with the oldest child does not necessarily work as well with the younger ones.

In reality, there is no recipe that guarantees good child development every single time. Firstly, there is no single parenting approach that works for all children. And this is logical since children differ in their temperament and needs. Secondly, a given approach may not have the desired effects (positive or negative), because other factors are at play. We forget that we do not have full control over our children’s behaviors. Parenting practices only explain part of a child’s development…! Many other factors (genes, peers, teachers, grandparents, neighbors, etc.) are also influential.

Let’s avoid thinking that there is one right way to raise children and that we’re bad parents if we don’t follow it. Let’s avoid thinking that if our child has difficulties (whether academic, emotional, or behavioral), it is largely our fault. Sometimes this is true, but often it is not. As a parent, we do not control everything. And that is fine because it also allows our children to pave their own way, to be different from what we had imagined or planned for them, and to end up as unique individuals who will test us but who will also enrich us with their differences.

By Isabelle Roskam, Ph.D. and Moïra Mikolajczak, Ph.D.

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