By Daniel Patterson
You needed some plants. There you were buying your first plant. Upon purchase, it came with a tiny white insert in the soil telling you exactly how much water and sun it required. You soon discovered it needed full sun, plenty of water…and as for the spacing…irrelevant as it was your only plant. You loved your new plant, and bought another, slightly different one. It seemed close enough, so you tossed the small white insert. You did everything the same as the first, but this one didn’t grow. What went wrong with the new plant?! Nothing. The plant’s not the problem; you are. You assumed it was just like the last plant, and it’s not.
I know what you’re thinking. My children are not plants and you, sir, are not a botanist. Correct. Two times. I am, however, positioned in a job where I interface with many second siblings flailing through life, suffering from parenting strategies applied to them that yielded remarkable results with the family’s first child, but are not suitable for their unique needs. As a family coach, I interface with many second-siblings who are disenfranchised, misguided, misunderstood, mildly to extremely angry, uninspired, lost, behind, down-and-out. They all have something in common: their behaviors are simply manifestations of being parented as if they are their older sibling.
A shift in thinking is required. It’s totally normal to compare your children; it has its time, place and life within the realities of parenting. I urge you to recognize comparisons for data’s sake, but strongly advise against verbalizing the contrasts directly to your children. For example, I imagine you know which of your children began to walk or talk earlier than the other; but no one remembers (besides you) who did what first; they each got there eventually. I urge you to celebrate your second child for who they are and not for who you were anticipating them to be.
Critical life and academic decisions should be driven by maturity and not age or typical hierarchical order. No sibling should be expected to embrace a particular sport, activity, or lifestyle simply because another child did it first. It is vital to determine who they are, what they like, what inspires them, and what natural limits are in play. Let them carve their own slice of the family pie; and do it with their best effort, your full support and within well-defined family plan. Communication is key. It is the water and sunlight to your relationship and their success.
There’s a reason gardens have more than one kind of plant. Your second child is their own person, their own plant, with unique qualities, needs, likes, strengths, weaknesses, beauty, size, shape, future and so on; treat them as such. If they seem wilted, try moving them to a new window, or adjust their sunlight, or water. For the same window that gave your first such astounding growth may be unintentionally shading a plant that requires full sun.
Daniel Patterson is an author, speaker and parenting coach. His new book The Assertive Parent is slated for release on May 29th. Connect with Daniel on Instagram: @pattersonperspective or visit www.pattersonperpective.com