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.

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.”