How to raise a child who is not like you

When your offspring’s personality and interests are the opposite of yours, parenting them may require a different approach.

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When your child grows, you will start seeing their personality take shape, as will their tastes, preferences and interests in the world around them.

As parents, you’ll expect their tastes not to differ too much from yours or your hubby’s, especially since their features most likely resemble yours.

However, do note that there are bound to be subtle differences in your and your mini-me’s personalities — they are their own person, after all.

As family counsellor Fiona Maher O’Sullivan of Incontact Counselling and Training Centre puts it, “Raising a child who is totally different to you can be challenging but it is also an opportunity to nurture a unique personality different to you.”

So, you focus on understanding your child rather than constantly pointing out the differences between the two of you.

Dr Vanessa von Auer, a clinical psychologist and director of VA Psychology Center, advises that you come to terms with the fact that your mini-me is not an exact replica of you. “Parents should accept their children for who they are and not who they ‘wish’ they’ll be, so that they can grow up with confidence, self-worth and pride in their own abilities.”

Both Dr von Auer and O’Sullivan have pointers on how to handle common parent-child differences…

“We can’t live through our children as they create their own lives and have their own paths to follow.”

SCENARIO #1 You are outgoing and love to meet and interact with strangers but your child is shy and struggles to say hello or make eye contact.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW… Don’t confuse your child’s shyness with a social anxiety disorder. Dr von Auer says that a child who is shy is more open to being in social situations as long as they are with a safe person whom they trust. Social anxiety on the other hand is an excessive, persistent and irrational fear of social situations, regardless of who’s accompanying the child. Because of this fear, they refuse to be in any social situation. Social anxieties also usually begin in early adolescence, although it’s also known to start earlier during primary school, says O’Sullivan.

HOW YOU CAN HELP Lead by example and model outgoing and confident behaviour for your child to see, Dr von Auer advises. Also, refrain from forcing your kewpie to greet others, look people in the eyes, or worse, kick up a fuss about your child’s shy personality. Initially, you may answer on your mini-me’s behalf if they are too shy to greet or respond during a conversation. When you do so, this lets your little one observe positive interactions and takes some pressure off your shy child.

SCENARIO #2 You’re a sports fan and are active in sports but your child isn’t remotely interested.

HOW YOU CAN HELP Just because your child isn’t interested in sports now doesn’t mean they won’t be when they’re older. Don’t panic, Dr von Auer stresses, adding that you try to include sports and physical activities in your family life. This way, keeping a healthy and active lifestyle comes naturally to your kids as they grow.

O’Sullivan points out that you should continue to expose your children to different experiences as they grow to learn where their passions and creativity lie. Moreover, you should remember that loving your tyke means wanting what’s best for them in the long run.

Don’t be too involved and invested in your child’s life as this is usually when problems start, O’Sullivan adds, “We can’t live through our children as they create their own lives and have their own paths to follow.”

 

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SCENARIO #3 You can’t be bothered with sports but your active child is picking up a new sport like swimming.

HOW YOU CAN HELP Drive them to and from their weekly practice sessions or games and support them from the side lines. O’Sullivan suggests getting to know other parents or the coach and show your support through taking some form of action. Also, start to google and learn actively about your preschooler’s preferred sport, Dr von Auer suggests. “Being involved in your child’s life helps with bonding and makes them feel like they matter.”

“We can’t change a child’s personality but exposure to lots of social interactions will help them make connections at their own pace.”

SCENARIO #4 You are tidy by nature but your child isn’t. He or she is always misplacing things and their room is always in a mess!

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW… Remember that your child’s room is one of the few places they can be themselves and likewise, be able to express their personality. Dr von Auer notes that their bedrooms are a safe and personal space. “They should be allowed to express their unique personalities in this personal space, which will help them feel a sense of ownership, pride and competence.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP From as young as age 3, you can assist your child in showing them how to clean up their toys and put things away, shares O’Sullivan. “Involve them in small and manageable tasks and as they grow older, age-appropriate chores can also be given to teach them responsibility and a sense of belonging to the family.” You can also try building low, open shelves which are easily accessible to your child. If it’s easy for your child to reach for the things they want, they are also more likely to put them back, too, O’Sullivan notes.

Making it fun will motivate your mini-me to abide by the keep rooms clean and neat rule. Dr von Auer adds that if your child helps you to pick up all the toys or laundry and put them in their respective places three out of five days, then reward them, maybe with ice cream.

SCENARIO #5 You are a social butterfly with a big circle of friends, but your child only has a handful of friends he or she hangs out with.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW… As long as your tyke’s preferences isn’t hindering their quality of life or isolating themselves, having a small social circle isn’t a bad thing. Dr von Auer says that it’s more important to value your child’s preferences.

HOW YOU CAN HELP The best thing you can do is to create opportunities to encourage social interaction such as setting up play dates or enrolling them in a group activity. O’Sullivan states that a child will be much more confident if they get used to meeting and interacting with lots of different people. “We can’t change a child’s personality but exposure to lots of social interactions will help them make connections at their own pace.”

SCENARIO #6 You’ve always been a hardworking individual but always receive complaints from teachers that junior is untidy and hands in late work.

HOW YOU CAN HELP Instil the value of time management and organisational skills from a young age. Dr von Auer suggests using fun and interactive apps like Remember the Milk or Happy Kids Timer or other visual aids like timetables. A physical timer works as well, too. Do create a conducive and dedicated study area, which should reduce the likelihood that they might misplace their things, it might also improve their attention spans.

Photos: iStock

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