Siblings might look alike — but that doesn't mean they'll act the same. In fact, studies have shown that it's actually more common for siblings to have different personalities than similar ones.
One reason for this is that children often instinctively compete for their parents' attention by finding specialized ways to stand out. Due to the phenomenon known as divergence, siblings often choose different traits and skills in order to avoid competition with each other.
This is certainly the case in our family. It often seems like my daughters could not be less alike. Not only does one have blond hair and blue eyes while the other is dark like her parents, but one is quiet and ethereal in nature while the other is a loud and boisterous material girl.
So, how can I be the best parent I can to each of them, when their needs, interests, and demeanors are so different? Below, I'm sharing what I'm doing — and if you've got opposites in your family, I'd love to hear your tips, too!
1. Practice the art of compromise.
This past summer, one daughter wanted to go to science camp while the other wanted to attend cheerleading camp. Since I wasn't going to drive all over town taking them to different camps, we found an agreeable compromise: sewing camp, something they both enjoy.
Compromise is a part of life, but that doesn't mean it's easy. I remind my girls that learning how to negotiate and find solutions with their sister will prepare them well for all of the times they'll need to compromise in the future.
2. Plan individual time with each child.
With two parents and two kids, it's sometimes possible to divide and conquer. One parent can help a child with an art project while the other can assist in the building of a train.
However, when the kids outnumber the grownups, you may need to call on your extended family and community for help. This way, you can allow your children the opportunity to explore their interests as individuals, without the constant presence and preferences of a sibling.
3. Praise each child for her unique skills.
Our children may be different, but that doesn’t mean that one of them is better. And it's important for our kids to realize that. We can help them by staying away from comments that come off as pressure to be like the other sibling, or for that matter, to be like anyone else.
Each child has skills that are worthy of praise, and those skills are what make each of them unique and special. Our job as parents is to remind our kids of this.
4. Don’t overemphasize their differences.
Personality traits in our children often become accentuated because of the differences between siblings. For example, if we weren’t comparing our younger daughter Nava to her much louder and more outgoing sister Kira, we might not come to the conclusion that she is quiet.
If we continually tell Nava that she is quiet, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy as she starts to believe that about herself. Instead, we should look at each child on her own, without comparisons, and simply see her greatness.
5. Foster their relationship with each other.
I encourage my daughters to stay close despite their differences. Above all, I tell them that their relationship with each other is the most important relationship in their lives. They are the only two people on the planet who share the exact same parents and upbringing as each other, which gives them an invaluable connection.
Even when their father and I are long gone, I hope they will always have each other’s backs.