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Is it Possible to Love One Child More Than Another?

I asked myself one morning after yet another power struggle with my younger daughter. Of course I immediately felt bad thinking it, but in that moment I really was questioning it.

shutterstock-temperament

Like many parents with two children, my girls could not be more different. They not only look different, but also have vastly different inherent temperaments.

Inherent temperament is that part of themselves of which they are born. Who they “are” at their core; the “nature” part of them. It also shapes how they make decisions, how they handle stress, how their respond to others and their environment and much more.

Whether they recognize it or not, most parents have a basic understanding of temperament from birth: Does their child sleep through the night right away or wake up every 2 hours? Do they cry only when hungry or all the time? Is he extra sensitive to light and sounds or does he sleep soundly in spite of these things?

A few months later when a child’s personality really starts to show up, there are more indicators about “who they are”. Do they warm to strangers more easily or are they more reserved? Are they more outgoing or do they like to keep to themselves? Are they constantly active or do they prefer more quiet time? All can be indicators of inherent temperament.

Often times during the parenting journey, parent and child will run into what is called a temperament clash. A temperament clash is when we recognize how our children “are” but feel that they should be different. This is usually based on the parent trying to move the child more towards their own temperament style. ☺

Temperament clashes between parent and child can begin early on. An outgoing parent with an outgoing child is an easier match than an outgoing parent with a reserved child; and a stoic parent with a child who is the same is an easier match than a stoic parent with an emotional child. As time goes on, these clashes in temperament can become bigger and more challenging as more of the differences in parent and child come forth.

Through a tool I use called the Temperament Assessment, I know that my eldest daughter has an interpersonal temperament. Interpersonals are gregarious, peacemakers and are intuitive to feelings. Conversely, my youngest has a “thinker’s” temperament. Thinkers are analyzers and rationalizers, they show limited emotions and expression (as they’re always in the head) and they need time and space to figure things out (think about it). All of these are wonderful traits to have, but the traits of my youngest clash much more so with my temperament.

My temperament needs to be in charge, to lead, to not be questioned, to be told I am the best at what I do and to solve problems quickly and efficiently. (Much of this sounds like most moms, but this is also a specific temperament type.) The clashes come from my needing to get things done quickly (she needs time), to be given positive feedback (she is limited with emotion and expression) and to not be questioned (she wants answers to everything). ☺

So the question becomes, with this knowledge and awareness, how do we work through these clashes? I have had to think about what I can change about my behavior so that I can better connect with this child. At her core, she is not going to change, but what can change are the choices I make about the ways in which I respond to her. As parents we can only be their guides along the way.

Paige Michaelis

Paige Michaelis

Paige Michaelis is a Certified Positive Discipline Educator, an ICF Affiliated Parenting Coach, and Mom to two amazing preteen girls, and wife to a very childlike husband. She is also the Founder of 1 Minute Mommy which supports working parents in finding the tools, resources and solutions needed for more peace, harmony and authenticity in their parenting and in their lives.

41 comments

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  • Yes wow! I struggle with my oldest more than I do with my youngest. My oldest knows how to push my buttons like no other, he’s high strung wired….has so much energy he just won’t sit still, but sleeps like a rock every night and can’t be woken even if sirens were going off right next to his head. He wakes each morning and doesn’t stop talking until he goes to sleep. For me…I am overwelmed and can’t keep up with him. My youngest is more relaxed, stays in one place, plays with one toy at a time is quiet and reserved and I relate so much more with that…I can handle that. So yes I totally identify with this post in so many ways! I love though how you see your different temperments and are striving as a parent to best connect with your child. Loved this post!

    • Hi Heather, I am glad you enjoyed the post! It sounds like you are in the same boat that I am. It is not easy and really forces self reflection, right?! I am constantly thinking, “why can’t i get along with younger daughter the same way as older?” “What can I do differently, etc?” So challenging! I guess this is why they say parenting is the hardest job ever. LOL. Thanks for your comment.

  • Oh my gosh! This sounds exactly like me and my daughter! My older son is just like me and we get along fine, but my daughter is more like her dad and sometimes she drives me nuts! Thanks for the post!

    • Hi Holly, most of the parents I have spoken to have one that is more like them. So much of it is not only temperament but also birth order, the beliefs kids begin to form about their place in the world and other influences. I find it so fascinating and glad you did too!

  • I do love all of my children equally yet differently. If there was a fire, which one would I save first? I would probably have to go with proximity but you better believe I am going back in for the other two.

    • Hi MsCrookedHalo, I like your comment about loving equally but differently. I think that sums it up pretty well. I am wondering what the “differences” are for me. What are yours?

    • Karen, I hear you. There can definitely be a daily shift, not only dependent upon who they are, but also HOW they are on that day, and how I am on that particular day! Thanks for commenting!

    • Krystal, you bring up a good point. If there are clashes between parenting styles, favoritism can definintely occur. I would think it would be more common in parents than grandparents because of that old addage that grandparents can just take the kids for a short time and then “give them back”, hence not having to handle the various temperaments on a daily basis. What do you think?

    • Kimberly and Emerald, thank you for your comments. Do you think, however, that because of those differences it is possible to love a child less? I wonder because if a child begins to exhibit bad behavior, do we begin to withdraw love? Sometimes it happens. What do you think?

  • I have three daughters who have their similarities and differences. I love the all three more than anything else in the entire world. Each of them offer different things to love and cherish.

    • Jessica, thanks for your reply, out of curiosity, I will ask you the same question as above: Do you ever find it hard to find things you like about a child who is being challenging? I think that THIS can be the challenge. Getting out of our own way. What do you think?

  • My kids are pretty different from each other in the way they interact with others. But they have similar likes and dislikes, and they’re both extremely stubborn.

  • We definitely have to do what we can to mesh with our children’s temperaments and foster the strong parts of them. Great post.

    • Robin, thank you. What do you think are some of the biggest challenges with meshing ourselves with our kids? I find that not allowing my buttons to be pushed is one of the biggest. For some reason these buttons are really BIG and I know that I’ve been carrying them around for a long time. You?

    • Lorane, you are the voice of dissention, I love it. Do you have children? As I stated above, what happens is that when temperament clashes occur a child can begin to exhibit ‘bad” behavior. A parent can then withdraw love, not conciously usually, but out of anger, sadness and frustration. The hard part here is maintaining that constant love even when the behavior is bad.

About Author

Paige Michaelis

Paige Michaelis

Paige Michaelis is a Certified Positive Discipline Educator, an ICF Affiliated Parenting Coach, and Mom to two amazing preteen girls, and wife to a very childlike husband. She is also the Founder of 1 Minute Mommy which supports working parents in finding the tools, resources and solutions needed for more peace, harmony and authenticity in their parenting and in their lives.