Resources & Tips

My kids are so different, one listens, one doesn't. What can I do?

I, too, like so many other parents was amazed by how little each of my sons had in common. Though your children will be more different than similar, it's important to avoid comparing them.

Most parents today are aware that comparing children increases sibling rivalry. But sometimes, especially when we're frustrated with our more challenging child, we let it slip, with comments such as, "Why can't you be more like your sister? She doesn't argue with every single thing I say" or "Jimmy gets good grades at school because he studies so hard. Maybe you should try that, too."

Even a compliment can backfire when phrased as a comparison, such as, "Your sister is the brain in the family, and you're the comedian." Statements like this spark feelings of rivalry and resentment among children, as well as giving them the impression that you prefer one to the other As soon as I hear a parent say, "My younger one is such an angel--happy, sociable, easygoing." I get concerned that what I'll hear next is "But my older one--he's impossible. He drives me nuts." Kids are reflections of the mirrors we hold up to them, and these kinds of labels reinforce the very behavior we want to discourage. It also restricts them to act according to these labels--especially the negative ones. Keep in mind that feelings of favoritism can ebb and flow as your children grow and change. The child who is difficult one year may be a real pleasure the next.

Part of the excitement of having more than one child is discovering who each new individual will be and seeing how the next child differs from the last. Real family life is a crazy quilt of multiple faces, styles, quirks, personalities, preferences, problems, and talents. Even though we sometimes wish it could be simpler--and bite our tongues so as not to say, "Why can't you be more like your brother!"--most parents agree that they wouldn't really want their children to be carbon copies of one another. In fact, we can find delight and satisfaction in the adventure of discovering their differences.


More Solutions to Parents' FAQs can be found in Nancy's books and articles found below.

Antidotes to Spoiling Kids
No parent sets out to raise a spoiled child. Here are antidotes to spoiling kids . . . and not just over the holidays.

How to Know if your Child is Spoiled
Are you caught in these spoiling traps?
Find out the traits of a spoiled child and learn to show love without spoiling.

• Sibling Rivalry
Learn nine solutions for handling sibling rivalry.

Have Your Kids Take the Sibling Survey
This unique questionnaire for parents to give their children will help parents better understand sibling and family relationships and offer clues to how kids really feel about their brothers and sisters.

Positive Discipline
Positive discipline alternatives to yelling, nagging, bribing, threatening and punishing.

Avoid Spanking
Spare the rod: to spank or not to spank?


Eight Weapons in the War on Anger
Nancy offers parents & Educators effective skills to handle their anger without hurting or insulting kids.