(This is a guest post from Zen Family Habits [http://www.zenfamilyhabits.net I really like their stuff!)
It seems a bit counter-intuitive punishing your kids for being good but I suspect we all do it more than we realize. Punishment is easy to see when you’re putting your kids in time out, raising your voice to them or using some other form of discipline. It’s a lot more challenging to see when you’re punishing your kids for being good.
When you have more than one child this is a particularly easy trap to fall into but it’s not so easy to see how it happens. Take a minute and see if you’re punishing your kids for being good, smart, successful etc.
Now, let’s look at a simple example:
Child A can:
- get dressed
- help himself to cereal and
- pack his bag for school
Child B can’t do these things.
As a result more of your time is spent on Child B, and rightfully so as he/she needs more attention to do some of the most basic activities. However, all of this attention spent on their sibling may leave Child A feeling a bit left out.
While this isn’t punishment in the way most of us would describe punishment, it does leave Child A feeling left out, not as important and less worthy (of your time and attention). Feelings I can say with near certainty that no parent wants to instill in their child.
How to change this
1. Make a conscious effort to devote more time to your other children. If one or two of your kids are more demanding than the others set aside some time to touch base and reconnect with your other children. It doesn’t need to be a huge amount of time but enough to mend some of their insecurities and reassure them that they matter. A walk to a park, shooting some hoops in the driveway or at the school, whatever your child is into take an interest and initiate some together time.
2. Be aware of how the “neglected” child might be feeling. Sad, lonely, forgotten etc. All kids are different and so will react very differently from each other. While one may feel sad, another may be angry, hurt or feeling as if you like their brother or sister “better”. We know this isn’t true but to our kids it’s very real.
While life isn’t fair and you certainly won’t be able to please everyone ALL the time you can, with a bit of effort, make everyone know they matter.