August 13, 2008 "If you love your children equally you will treat them uniquely."
Wow! What a good way of saying an important truth! I'm not sure where I even heard that quote, but I wrote it down because I thought it was so worth our consideration.
Sometimes parents, in trying to treat their children fairly, inadvertently walk into a minefield and fall prey to a tyranny. Children wield their little emotional sticks. "Susie got new shoes. Why didn't I?" Or "Johnny gets to play soccer. Why don't I?" Or, "How come I have to help clean the basement and Joey doesn't?"
Our children all need to know that we love them unconditionally. And I'm certainly not going to sit here and say I aced Parenting Done Right. I've certainly made my share of mistakes. But I think I always knew the truth of that pithy little statement even though I wouldn't have known how to say it so simply. I think I made a point of not treating my children equally. I love them equally, but I tried very hard to make room to be able to use answers like "Because Susie needed new shoes and you didn't. When you do, we will get you new shoes." ...Or, "Sometimes we need down time. Our family time gets way too confusing if we have too many things going at the same time. And I thought you said you didn't care that much for soccer. For now we'll watch Johnny's games. When the season is over, is there something you'd like to sign up for?" Or ... "That was my call. I like having you work with me. You're good at organizing. I'm sure there'll be a time I need Joey to help me with something."
It's so easy for kids to get into that tit-for-tat mentality—a mentality that leads to a sense of entitlement. And that's not a healthy way for a family to function.
Of course, this operating plan puts a burden of intentionality on the parents. If we
parent with care, we can encourage an environment in which each child can thrive.
O.K. I admit it. Sitting here typing this is like seeing through the rear-view mirror. It's a perspective that has filled out over the years. What that means is that it's a parenting position that is usually much easier to understand when you're looking on and your children are out of the nest than it was to carry out when we were in the thick of things.