How can we make sure our younger son doesn't feel left out?


Question

We have two awesome kids (daughter age 9, son age 6) and they are very different and both very talented. In part because of the age differences, our daughter tends to get more accolades, kudos, etc. How do we continually make sure that our son both doesn't feel left out and is allowed to explore his own interests without feeling confined to follow his sister's path because that is how he would get attention?


-M.D., California



Answer

Dear M.D.,


One of the most difficult, and most rewarding, aspects of parenting is recognizing and nurturing the unique traits of each child.


In the Education for Life (EFL) philosophy there are stages of development that everyone goes through. Every child also has their way of using their energy to mature, explore and experience joy. Where one person finds joy in creative expression, another may want to challenge themselves with sports, for example.


Conscious parenting involves being aware of where our children are developmentally, in addition to recognizing their individual strengths and needs. Your son is moving away from focusing on the body into the years of more sensitive feeling. Your daughter is in the midst of her feeling years and moving toward developing more will power. Being aware of those subtle shifts will help you support both of them.


It is natural for children to make some comparisons regarding rewards and recognition for achievements. If we, as parents, get too concerned about keeping things even, it can quickly become artificial. So, to foster an environment of support and encouragement for all kinds of growth, I would recommend looking carefully at two areas:


1) Within the family language and dynamic, is sincere effort and growth recognized and valued in a variety of areas? In other words, are good grades at school celebrated with great fanfare while overcoming fear of the dark or learning to throw a frisbee is passed over? Is everyone (adults included) encouraged to share their achievements with one another, regardless of public recognition? We can’t control what the world thinks is important, but we can foster a supportive environment within our family for the hard earned victories of daily life.


2) How are those personal achievements recognized and celebrated? What is meaningful for each member of the family? A high-five and a hug might be more than enough for someone to feel recognized. It doesn’t have to be a big party. Explore different ways to give support and rewards, such as:

  • A congratulations note on the family bulletin board

  • An extra 15 minutes of reading before bed

  • Three cheers at the dinner table

  • A picture and note sent to extended family via Snapchat

  • A fun privilege like choosing the movie for family night, or helping to cook a favorite dish

The point is that it is meaningful to the recipient and supported by everyone in the family.


The world doesn’t give out awards for most of the truly meaningful ways we grow and learn to be successful. As our children grow we can also talk to them about what feels big and important to us inside may not match what other people label as important on the outside.


You are a sensitive and conscious parent to see how important it is to feel valued and supported.


Blessings to you and your family,

Lorna