All Kids are Not Created Equal: How Should I Handle My Children’s Different Abilities?

equalMy son is practicing soccer on the lawn. A clumsy kid, following the ball doesn’t come easily. He’s got to work at it and he’s working hard. Exhausted, my son sits down to rest. His two-year-old sister grabs the ball and kicks it directly into the goal. I congratulate her while my heart internally breaks for my son. He’s been practicing all afternoon and never got it in the goal. He did get the ball in the neighbor’s tree. He kicked it directly into the street. And on his last try, he got the ball stuck directly under my car. He kicked it everywhere except inside the goal.

His little sister got it in on the first try.

Truth be told, my little one is one of those “good at everything” kinds of kids. She’s only two-years-old so chances are she’s going to find some things she’s bad at in the years to come, but for now she seems to be able to master everything she does.

On the other hand, her brother has to work hard at everything. Nothing comes easily. And it breaks my heart every single day.

My instinct is to make everything equal for my two kids. When one gets a compliment the other should, I think in my head. Complimenting either of them can only shine a light on what the other isn’t good at, right?

I think back to my own childhood. The youngest of three girls, my parents worked really hard to treat each of us equally. Except, we weren’t equal. One was a straight-A student. Everything came easily to her. One struggled through everything she did. And I just chugged along, hoping to fit in. We had, and still have, very different personalities and temperaments. Our skill sets and intelligence are as varied as our personalities. Yet, our parents always treated us equally.

And I remember hating it. 

I remember thinking that if I got a compliment, the others would be upset. Somehow any success or accomplishments that came my way seemed to be perceived as somehow taking something away from my siblings’. But the truth is, we weren’t in competition. We could all have our successes, even if they were different. By focusing so much on what we weren’t, my parents missed the opportunity to focus on what we were.

I think of this as I watch my two kids play soccer. While I would never tell my kids they were bad at something, I think it’s okay to acknowledge when one of the kids is good at something. And it’s even better for the kids to see that it’s okay not to be good at everything. And it’s okay for someone to excel in an area they don’t.

So I’m not raising my kids equally. I’ll love them the same, but I won’t raise them the same. I’ll love them for who they are. They don’t need to be anything more than that.