Isn’t it amazing how two children raised under the same roof, with the same parents, and the same schedule, routine and environment can have such different personalities? It’s hard not to compare, and difficult to remember that every child is an individual, and develops at his own pace, in his own time.
Dear Diana, We have two wonderful children. Our 10-year-old daughter is outgoing, enthusiastic and adventurous. She is upbeat and positive, takes on challenges and gives everything her best shot. My 12-year-old son is very quiet, prefers to be by himself, and is hesitant to try new things. If he does try something and has a bad experience, he will never try it again. There is no getting “back up in the saddle” for him. We bought him a go-cart that he absolutely loved, until he flipped it by accident. Now, he will have nothing to do with it. My son has a few friends but is more of a loner. I try so hard to help him find happiness. I tried to get him to stand in the rain with me and enjoy the raindrops on his face. He refused. When friends come to our pool and spend the day laughing and splashing, he refuses to jump in and enjoy, saying the water is too cold. He doesn’t enjoy baseball or other team sports, which is disappointing to me. I ask him if he wants to do things, like go for a hike, a bike ride, or throw around a ball, and the answer is almost always no. I get so frustrated with him because he is so hesitant about so many things. I don’t want to yell at him, but sometimes I just don’t know what else to do. I grew up wanting to try and do everything, more like my daughter, so I have a really difficult time accepting or understanding his personality. Any suggestions? — Frustrated Dad
Dear Frustrated Dad, Isn’t it amazing how two children raised under the same roof, with the same parents, and the same schedule, routine and environment can have such different personalities? It’s hard not to compare, and difficult to remember that every child is an individual, and develops at his own pace, in his own time. One of the most important and perhaps most difficult jobs a parent has is to provide continuous encouragement, even when frustrated. Presenting positive experiences, over and over, builds a trusting relationship, which helps a child become comfortable with new attempts, and therefore achieve new levels of success. I wonder if you would feel as frustrated if your daughter were a bit more shy, and a bit less adventurous, perhaps more like your son. You are comparing your two children, thinking they should be the same, but it is quite common for each child within the same family to have different personalities and interests.
Accept that, at this time, he cannot try something again after having had a negative experience with it. Continue to expose him to those difficult experiences in a relaxed, positive way. Yelling, forcing or becoming visibly frustrated will not change his mind or help him to become comfortable again. Offer to do it with him, or do it yourself, as he watches. Accept and advocate for him. Although he is not like your daughter, he sounds like a very special young man, who needs your understanding, great patience and endless encouragement. You sound like a great dad with high hopes for his son. I’m sure he will learn many wonderful things from you.
Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator. Find additional parenting resources at her website, www.yourperfectchild.com.