So how do we face this challenge? How do we love each of our kids (in spite of their) different personalities?
Know your kids. And keep learning about them.
This is my favorite thing. Learning about my kids. Continually getting to know them. Because each new age is different and I learn new things about them at each new stage.
What makes them smile?
What makes them mad?
What makes them sad?
What makes them feel loved?
What makes them full-on belly laugh?
What motivates them?
What scares them?
What makes them feel safe?
What discourages them?
What encourages them?
I think it's important to know your kids' love languages. How do they best receive love and how do they best give love. (Also important to know this about yourself...you can take a free quiz online for yourself here http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/). This book is an excellent read for parents.
Laura Kate's love language is a tie between quality time and words of affirmation. Any time spent with her she cherishes and feels special. The gift of her words is a treasure and it's also a need she has. She needs to hear words to make her feel affirmed.
Shepherd's love language is acts of service. Nothing makes him feel more loved than when I clean his room for him. He will talk about it all day long, thank me profusely and compliment my cleaning style.
Fischer so far I feel is words and touch. He likes to snuggle, hold hands, and talk!
Archer so far is touch. (I get so curious thinking about the future though as his personality develops!!)
Naturally as a parent, I gravitate towards my own gift: words of affirmation. It takes less effort to express love to LK in her language than it does to clean Shepherd's room or even to snuggle with Fischer sometimes. This is where being aware and then being intentional can really have an affect on their personality.
More than know how your kids feel, I think it's important to be aware of how they THINK.
Laura Kate thinks in stories and ideas. 95% of the time when you talk with her, she is either dreaming of or writing a story or she is making a plan for some great new idea she has. At times, her creativity combined with her brilliance is completely overwhelming to me. While I consider myself a creative person, she far exceeds where my limits are capable of. Many times a day I end up asking her if she is pretending or if it is real. Keeping up with her brain and imagination can be really exhausting and I have to be careful not to end up discouraging her dreams or ideas because of my lack of understanding or let's say "limited vision".
Shepherd is so logical. He needs to know what the rules are, he needs to know where things go, and he needs to know what's going to happen if things don't go according to the rules. He constantly checks to test and see that the rules are the same for other people as they are for him. Fareness is very important to him. What makes this difficult for me, even though I'm a rule follower myself, is that Shepherd's rules and what he feels like the fare thing is, are not often the same things I think they are. It takes great effort to change Shepherd's logic. I have learned with Shepherd, I have to think through things how he sees them and try to understand where he's coming from first in order to help him grow and learn in different scenarios. I also have to be careful because he has a lot of buttons to be pushed and if I'm not careful, I ended up mashing on them without thinking through to consequences for he and for the family as a whole.
Most of the time, Fischer thinks while is in the middle of acting. He figures things out my doing them. He didn't think through that pouring a glass of orange juice into chocolate milk would taste really nasty and would likely make a mess. He just did it and figured it out along the way. This is maddening to me some days. But remembering this is how he is wired, helps me parent him better and in a way that is going to make a lasting impact.
Obviously, I'm still learning about Archer. So far I know that he is very observant and imitates waaay more than my others did at this age, both with speech and action. He is constantly watching his siblings and try to do and say what they do. I have a feeling people are going to be important to him.
I struggle to type this part because I have a really hard time with the "carpe diem" mommy heart. 4 kids in less than 8 years has meant more survival mode days that thriving mode days. Often, I do not have the capacity to seize every sweet moment. And that's not necessarily what I'm getting at with being intentional. I'm thinking more big picture chunks of time than the day to day roller coaster. Being intentional to know your kids in this (fill in the blank) season. This is something that can be accomplished in the small pockets of time you do find yourself having from time to time. Also, those times you find yourself worrying about a particular thing for a particular kid, replace the worry with intentional thought: How can I parent this child well in the middle of this situation or circumstance?
Look for the good over the bad.
Let's be honest, multiple children with varying personalities, love languages and preferences is enough to make us want to quit the day before it starts sometimes. It is hard work and it is really easy to only see the challenges and many times we overlook the precious gifts that come from each one.
There are practical ways you can do this. Sometimes just being more aware each morning when you start your day can help.
Because I'm a list maker, I started making lists of my favorite things about my kids on my "lists" app on my phone. I try to make notes when they say or do something really funny or sweet and sometimes I just write down the things I like about them. This is especially helpful on days when one personality is more challenging than the others. It really helps me shift my perspective and look towards the beautiful treasures they give to me every day.
I think looking for the good really helps me as I'm growing as a parent. I really want to do a good job at this whole mom gig. I really want to love them well. Looking for the positive helps encourage me along the way.
The Question I Get Asked The Most About Having Four Kids
Today my friends in the Babywise Friendly Blog network are each talking on the topic of "love". Check out these posts as well as our Pinterest boards for even more tips and tricks!
Chronicles of a Babywise Mom: Self Worth Comes Vertically, Not Horizontally
The Journey Of Parenthood: Lessons I Learned About Love, From My Six Year Old
Mama's Organized Chaos: What Is Love?