Different Children, Different Needs

This month, our Tommy Mommies are sharing about how we’ve learned that our different children each have different needs. While we may have once been under the illusion that we could parent all our children the same way, we quickly realized that just as each of our children are unique, they each need different things from us as their parents.

This became very evident to us very early on in our parenting. When my daughter was barely able to speak, I noticed a pattern of (what I thought was) defiant behavior emerging.

If I asked her to do something, she would, on a fairly consistent basis, repeat back or do the exact opposite of what I’d said. Being our first-born, she had always been a good baby and fairly compliant toddler. As we reached the two’s, I simply thought this was the milestone tons of parents before me had dreaded…but I never wanted to ‘dread’ anything when it came to my child.

In fact, I had mentors confirm that while every stage of parenting comes with its own unique set of challenges, it is possible to traverse those without losing your mind and while growing closer as a family.

So this situation left me dumbfounded.

It wasn’t until I was giving Kariss a bath one night and I asked her to do something, to which she again responded with the opposite.

My eyes alone must have conveyed my immense disdain (I don’t want to admit it was frustration), because her little face looked genuinely crestfallen and confused. This was not the face of a child willfully disobeying her mother.

It stopped me in my tracks.

“Kariss,” I gently asked her, “what did you just hear mommy say?”

Without skipping a beat, she repeated back the opposite version of what I’d just asked her to do.

Still looking scared and confused at why she was getting in trouble for following my directions, I proceeded to ask her about an incident from the night before. She again shared what she internalized…which was a completely different version of what had come out of my mouth.

I then recalled a similar instance a friend (& licensed counselor) told me about her own son. Over a period of time while she home-schooled him, he consistently ignored her. Long story short, it turned out he had a central auditory processing disorder, a condition where he only hears about 7 out of every 10 words in a sentence, and than number drops significantly if there are any distractions in the room.

That bathtub incident forever changed the way we communicated with our daughter. It taught us to re-evaluate what we previously thought we knew about our little girl. We learned that she ‘hears’ just as much (if not more) with her eyes as she does with her ears.

Now when we talk to her, especially when giving commands or administering discipline, we get down on her level, take everything out of her hands, remove all noise distractions (within reason) and look her directly in the eyes as we speak. We’ve also learned to respond instead of react (helpful advice for marriages too!). If our eyes are too angry or our voices too loud, she emotionally shuts down and wouldn’t hear a thing we’d say anyway! We’ve even been able to communicate this to her teachers, which has in turn helped them better understand how she learns.

Although her brother is only 19 months her junior, communication is not that complicated with him. However, while our daughter sees the world as black & white, our son enjoys every shade of gray in between! Making sure he hears us isn’t our issue, but making sure he doesn’t decide to leave our commands up to his own interpretation is an entirely different issue…can you say “Ma-nip-u-late”???

It’s taught us that there is not one cookie-cutter way to parent our children. God made them unique and therefore there are unique ways that we will talk, play, instruct, discipline and reward them.

I mentioned earlier that I shared our discoveries about our daughter’s teacher. I would encourage you to do the same. Every year, I write a note to our children’s teachers, both thanking them in advance for the investment they’re making into our kids and sharing a list about what makes them unique. If nothing else, it’s a fun memory for me to keep each year (I make a copy for myself). However, every teacher has made it a point to tell me first-hand how much they’ve appreciated the jump start I’ve given them in learning about our kids – everything from special nick names to how they like to spend their time away from school.

How are your kids unique? What special ways to you celebrate that?

With a passion for teaching and mentoring others as her inspiration, Sami Cone began blogging in 2009 to encourage others to live their dream life and pursue their passions. A published author and seminar speaker, she draws on her experiences as a writer, editor, university professor, performer, professional athlete, and pageant winner to help women realize their full potential in life. Sami appears regularly on TV & Radio as a Frugal Expert and has been blogging for Tommy Nelson since 2010. Sami and her husband of seven years, Rick, thrive in Nashville with their two children.