Most parents of more than one child will find that they have what you could term one ‘easy’ child. Your ‘easy’ child doesn’t fuss. At least not as much as your more strong-willed child. Your ‘easy’ child tends to get on with things, follows instructions willingly and has an amenable temperament that the whole family appreciates. At least this one doesn’t kick off over nothing. Settles easily and is always happy.
But is this all that your ‘easy’ child is?
Happy, easy going, diplomatic and amenable?
And what might we overlook when we tend to get sidetracked by the more volatile temperament of our other child – who invariably gets more attention?
No two children are alike. Not even identical twins. Each of our children is born with a certain temperament that expresses in various ways depending on a myriad of factors ranging from: the family culture, culture at large, sibling order and of course – how we as parents meet our child.
Children come into this world ready for socialisation – and are highly attuned to their environment. Why? Because it ensures their survival.
What is my place here?
Who do I need to be in order to ensure connection to my parents?
What can this family tolerate?
Each of our children answers these questions through their behaviour. This is why no two siblings (not even identical twins) occupy identical roles and behave the same within a family – and why a ‘strong-willed child’ almost always have a more compliant sibling.
When one of your children becomes the key to the family’s wellbeing
When your “difficult” child melts down – the entire family suffers.
The mood of this child easily becomes the key to the family’s wellbeing – which means that a lot more attention is offered to this child in order to either deal with the outbursts or prevent any outbursts from happening.
In this dynamic our ‘easy’ child is likely to be overlooked. The strained family dynamic leaves little capacity for more difficult behaviours. It serves us to have a child who doesn’t require much. Naturally we don’t want to challenge the status quo – so it is tempting to praise this child’s cooperative and agreeable nature.
The trouble is – the role of our “easy child” leaves little room for being difficult, emotional, insistent or even angry. Facets of life that are part and parcel of a healthy emotional life – and gives rise to healthy self-esteem, good boundary setting and helps buffer against adult stress, anxiety and people pleasing.
If you suspect that your ‘easy’ child has adopted the family’s peace-keeper role – and has been somewhat praised into a role of ‘easy’ child it is not too late to turn this dynamic around.
Rather than blaming your ‘difficult’ child for this – I suggest you forget about fault and blame.
Let go of any idea of blame, right or wrong or could’ve, would’ve should’ve!!
It is what it is!
You’ve spotted it! And you can only do something about the things you are aware of!
Instead – consider the following 3 tips:
1. Stop the comparisons
In a desperate attempt to appease the situation – we draw comparisons between our kids – or describe them to others in ways that reveal how we see them; easy vs difficult.
‘Can’t you be more like your brother’ we say out loud of think to ourselves
‘What’s the matter with you.. look at your brother – he’s much younger than you and he’s not kicking off”
Obviously we don’t do this because we love one more than the other – but because it is difficult for us to embrace that which we don’t understand. The child whose reactions we feel triggered by. The child who brings us in touch with our own blind spots – that lead us to say and do things we aren’t proud of.
Letting go of drawing comparisons does everyone a favour. Not only does it lessen sibling rivalry – it also sends a signal that each family member is seen and respected for who they are. This is key in developing healthy self-esteem.
2. Allow your ‘easy’ child to be difficult
While we celebrate cooperation and compliance – and have been taught culturally to think of these qualities as equating to ‘being good’ – there is such a thing as ‘over-cooperation’.
Because we know from the research that children – if given an ultimatum – would rather give up connection to themselves – than giving up connection to us – it is clear that one of our finest jobs as parents is to support them to balance this tension that all of us are faced with; the need to belong to myself vs the need to belong to the group.
- One of the ways we can help our ‘easy child’ is to send a signal that we aren’t scared of big emotions. That their sibling isn’t too much for us to handle. How we talk about – and handle big emotions sends powerful signals to our children about how much they are allowed to feel and express.
- Notice where you see your ‘easy child’ give in or change their boundary in order to keep the peace. And rather than reaping the benefit of another 5 minutes of peace – check in with your child; was this what you wanted? How come you agree?
Without shaming your strong-willed child for the situation. This sends a signal to your child -that it is okay to speak your mind and fight for what you want. Even if it results in conflict.
3. Mindful special time every day
It is great to prioritise spending time together with your child – but what matters even more – is HOW we spend time together. There is often a sense that our children take up or entire life – and that everything we ever do is for or with them. So the last thing you might think they need – is EVEN more of your time.
The good news is – when we decide to be present – really be there – not just in body – but also in spirit – in the little interactions we have with our children – we nourish their spirit.
- Taking 30 seconds to actually enquire about a drawing and really noticing the effort that’s been put into it.
- Crouching down to meet your little one at eye height when you want to give a message or listen to what she has to say – says; I see you.
- Sitting down for a 10 minute cuddle while they watch TV – or saying YES – to jumping on the trampoline – or going for a walk says; you matter to me.
If we don’t – we end up only giving our children our undivided attention for all the negative stuff; the sibling feuds, the mess they’ve made, the NO we give them and the negative behaviours that we don’t want to see more of.
Yet we will – if we don’t invest in the relationship through strengthening the connection. Through the one thing that doesn’t cost a thing; our presence.