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Why it’s OK for your child to be different, in fact they must be!

I love kids, in fact I love people. My passion is people.

I have four fantastic children, no longer little (they are 24, 21,19 and 17), the first a boy and then three girls and I have to say they have grown into wonderful young adults, each of them uniquely beautifully different. Of all the achievements and accomplishments in my life, none come close to the experience of raising children.

What a wonderful, exciting, fun, adventurous and, at times, a testing, teary and emotionally stressful exercise.

I find people amazing. How they behave, what they do, why they do it. What shapes their attitudes and beliefs and how those attitudes and beliefs shape their lives.

However I particularly love kids. Why? Because you can watch them grow, interact, discover and develop. They are like a big ball of putty and you can watch as they are shaped into a unique individual. They arrive with no prejudices, animosity, dislikes, beliefs, preconceptions or twisted views of the world.

To them everything is a discovery, a learning experience. And that’s what I love about kids. They will test the boundaries, they will shove a handful of dirt in their mouth to find out if its good to eat, pick up a terrified cat to see if it wants to play and take their big sister’s iPhone to see if that’s a good game.

So that’s what I love. But this is what bugs me. These children arrive in our world a unique little character ready to discover all the wonderful and amazing things that there are to behold, and from day one we try to make them “fit in”.

We compare how much they eat, how they sleep, how often they cry and what they wear. We get worried when they are slow to walk or slow to talk. We get distressed when they find it hard to ride a bike or tie their shoelaces. We get scared if they don’t look right, talk right and behave right.

What we should really do from day one is sit back and look at them for the unique individual they are and the amazing person they can become.

Imagine the world if we all looked the same, talked the same, ate the same, lived the same. What a boring planet it would be! Unfortunately that’s the world we are heading for, trying to make everyone “fit in”. Good old vanilla for everyone, plain and simple.

So give some thought to what’s unique about your child and celebrate the differences. If they have a tendency to want to run and climb then let them run and climb. If they have a desire to draw (even if its on the walls) find a way to encourage that skill. If they love animals, help them discover all they can about them.

Remember, they don’t know what they don’t know and in the early years you will get to see their natural abilities, choices and behaviours come to the surface. If you try to bury these in complying with a cotton wool society, you may find raising a child a struggle.

Allowing your children to be uniquely and beautifully different is understanding that what you see as negative behaviours can also be valuable in the right context.

For example, each of my children has a behaviour that could be seen as a negative that we have twisted into a positive that they now see as a unique and useful part of themselves.

So one of them has a tendency to flare up around a particular topic. They get cranky, rant and rave and get hot under the collar. We have turned that into a passionate focus for what they believe in, a great trait to have if you are a leader, which this child has become.

Another you would call stubborn! In fact, everyone did and some people still do. However, we have managed to make this a fiery determination to succeed, a never-give-up attitude, which has seen them complete tasks that the other kids would have easily given up on.

One of our young children was always getting into trouble for knocking things over at dinner. The sauce, the sugar, their dinner or someone’s drink was always ending up on the carpet, until one day we discovered that all they were trying to do was be the first person to help. If someone asked for something, they would reach across the table to be the one to get it for them. This child has grown into the most loving caring person giving all she can in her career of looking after and taking care of others. Something she absolutely loves but could have been lost if we didn’t stop to ask “why does she spill or knock things over more than the others, what is unique in this scenario?”.

I could give you example after example of how my kids revealed their unique personalities and how we accentuated those unique qualities so that they would serve them well later in life. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all roses, smiles and hugs. Some of it was downright exhausting and some of the toughest stuff I have ever had to deal with. And the game is still in play!

The sooner you start the better. Don’t look for what’s wrong or what needs to be the same as everybody else. Look for what’s unique and celebrate it! Some kids like the flowers to be blue, the grass to be red and the sky to be green, and that’s perfectly OK.

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2 comments so far -

  1. Nice point. My girl often gets called stubborn but I have to remind myself that while this makes her a challenging 3 year old this is actually a great trait for a problem solver. I don’t want her to be any different a give up what could be an important skills later in life.

    Have you considered that your daughter knocking things over more often because she was more often trying to go out of her way to help?

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