Different Rules for Different Kids

Temperaments

Different kids One of your two children is totally cooperative and agreeable, while the other one seems to fight you at every turn.

If nurture trumps nature, how is it possible to have one child who leaps at every chance to earn a sticker and another who couldn't care less how many gold stars he needs to log before you'll take him to the amusement park? The answer is that nature is a powerful force. Even if you bring up your kids the same way, their varying temperaments will become clear by around age 2, says William Coleman, M.D., professor of pediatrics at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Richard Johnson, a father from Brooklyn, would agree. His 2-year-old son, Edward, consistently tests the boundaries in a way that his 4-year-old daughter, Josie, never has. "Time-outs with Edward only work if you sit with him and let him know you're angry by refusing to engage him," Johnson says. "Whereas Josie will sit as if she's glued to the chair until she's released by apologizing and getting a 'magic hug.'"

He and his wife, Karen, barely had to childproof their house for cautious Josie. But to keep their daredevil son out of harm's way, they've taken down picture frames above the couch and made their small kitchen completely off-limits to both kids (putting locks on the cabinets and cupboard just in case). "We got tired of having to reprimand Edward all the time, so we've taken extra steps to ensure his safety," Johnson says.

Different rules Just because your disciplinary strategy was successful with one child doesn't mean it will fly with your second (or third, or fourth). If a kid isn't responding to your approach, make adjustments. He may just need a tighter leash than his sibling does. And if incentives aren't getting him to clean up his toys, you may have to take away his Legos for a day. Figure out what works for each child, and go with it.

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