Does the following scenario sound familiar? You had your first child, successfully navigated your way through a few years of parenting with a parenting style that worked, figured it out — for the most part — and thought, “I can do this again! I want to do this again!” Along came child number two…and bam! Parenting as you understood it was turned upside down, all of your tried and true parenting techniques were less than effective. What do you do when your parenting style doesn’t work with your second child? Keep reading for advice on how to adjust your parenting style.
If you’ve found that your previously successful parenting techniques aren’t working with your second child, it’s likely that you and your child have very different personalities. Janet Penley, author of MotherStyles: Using Personality Type to Discover Your Parenting Strengths, explains how differing personalities — yours and your child’s — can lead to head butting, button pushing and general frustration. But more importantly, she offers advice on how to change up your parenting style to make it work.
What type of mom are you?
You might want to take ten minutes to complete a quiz that will help you determine your mothering personality. The results can help you understand how you and your child are different. Penley explains that personality type information is useful because it can encourage you to break out of “right versus wrong thinking” and instead put the situation in perspective.
Natural behavior isn’t necessarily misbehavior
“In general, differences between people are the spark of life, but sometimes that spark can flare up into frictions, anger and resentment,” says Penley. “When you’re raising a child that has a different personality, it’s just fraught with opportunities for misunderstandings and miscommunication. Being more mindful of different personality types can really help you distinguish something you might judge as misbehavior that is actually just someone acting naturally.”
If you’re a structured person, you like routine, order and a schedule. But if your child is unstructured, he doesn’t see anything wrong with leaving several tasks half-completed — toys strewn around the room, crayons on the table and a bike by the front door — when the urge strikes him to run outside and play in the sandbox. In fact, from his point of view, why wouldn’t he?! It’s not that he’s misbehaving or ignoring your repeated requests to clean up, but rather he’s acting “naturally.”
Meeting in the middle
Rules are important, of course. Making your personality work with your child’s doesn’t mean throwing order and structure out the window. Instead, Penley suggests that because you are the adult and have the ability to reason, you’ll be the one to “flex” more. “Of course, you can’t overflex to your child,” says Penley. “If you do, the boundaries will be pushed too far.”
Instead, you have to find the balance between flexing to your child’s personality and meeting your needs and enforcing your rules, and that’s not easy. “Often, you’re going to err in one direction or the other, and that’s what makes parenting a challenge, she says. However, aim for the basics. If maintaining a clutter-free home is important to you, then you can insist that your child put his toys away when he’s done playing with them. However, remember to be flexible in other situations. For example, if he’s in the middle of a task and something interesting catches his attention, give him an opportunity to take a break and explore that.
Being a mom changes you
“When you’re responsible for kids, no matter what your natural tendencies, sometimes motherhood will stretch you to be your opposite [self],” says Penley. And it’s true! If you’re extremely free-spirited, you’ll have to be a little more structured and organized or you’ll lose your mind! The same applies if you used to be extremely ordered — you have to become more flexible.
Go with the flow and remember that your children are just like everyone else. No two people are alike. The parenting style you used with your first child might not work with your second child. The good news is that with a flexible attitude, you’ll find the balance with time, and — even though it may not always seem like it — with your sanity intact.
Do you have two (or more) children with different personalities? How has that affected your parenting style? Share your experience in the comments section below.
Read more about different parenting styles
- How to adjust your parenting style before baby arrives
- Two people, two parenting styles
- What is your parenting style?