It dawned on me as I was putting my daughter to bed the other night. We were going through her bedtime routine of book, snuggle and sleep, but when we started (or tried to start) the actual “sleep” part of that routine? No bueno.

Not only did she not want to sleep, but she also very clearly wanted to stick her foot in my face. And laugh. And make tooting sounds with her mouth. And do pretty much everything else in the world except sleep.

As for me? My blood pressure was rising.

Didn’t she know I had three episodes of House of Cards to get in tonight? And that I had to finish two blog posts, take a bath, and do otherwise Adult Things that I have absolutely NO time for during the actual daylight hours?

She did not know, and something tells me even if she did, she did not care.

Zero toddler F’s given.

Now, let me say this: If I were in this situation with her older brother, I make my voice firm, tell him if he didn’t listen he would lose play time/iPad time/a treat the next day, and voila! The misbehaving would be over.

But my daughter? Nope. Not gonna work.

And when I did try the tactic I use on her brother? Let’s just say that some kids have a keen instinct for knowing when they’re making their parents squirm, and they kinda enjoy it. She smelled my fear (fear that I wasn’t going to be able to leave her room to do my adult things) like a shark smells blood.

“We’re fighting,” she said.

That was the moment I realized–with some serious realness–that since each child is different, each child needs a unique approach to discipline.

So now, with her, I coax. I talk quietly. I even joke around a bit. And above all, I stay calm. Anything else would produce the exact opposite effect of what I want.

And you know what? It works.

It turns out that kids—just like us adults—are little individuals. And sometimes it works in our favor to treat them that way.

(I’ll pause for a moment while you scream DUH.)

And while I’m no parenting expert, I do think this lesson of individualized reaction (not individualized parenting, per se) to our children’s behaviors is a valuable one. If we take a breath in those tense moments when they test our patience, consider re-thinking our approach (and in my case, take a calming breath), it might go a long way toward preserving our own sanity and fostering our kids’ growth.

Never did I think that my kids would be teaching me so much more than I’m teaching them.


How do you parent? Do you respond differently to your children when they misbehave?

P.S. How to travel sane with your littles, and why it’s important to put yourself near the top of your priority list.

Sonni Abatta is a mom of three and runs this Orlando lifestyle and mom blog. She is about to start bedtime with her kids. Wish her luck.