Some say raising boys is a breeze in comparison to raising girls. Others say girls are far easier than boys, but what about having both? Parenting siblings of the opposite gender is wonderful but over the years I have faced challenges I never knew existed.
Siblings of the opposite gender are common in my family. I have one boy and one girl, as does my mother, grandmother and uncle. One thing I’ve realised over the past few years is that having a sibling of the opposite gender is entirely different to parenting siblings of the opposite gender.
Mia and Theo have the most amazing bond, but they couldn’t be more different. The obvious difference between them is gender. Their personalities work well together, they get along fantastically 50% of the time, but when they come to blows, the fall out is phenomenal. Mia is strong but sensitive, she’s kind and thoughtful but she can also be a total diva. Theo is defiant and strong-willed, he’s the joker of the family and has the ability to be wonderfully generous and kind to others – on his terms!
Disciplining children of the opposite gender can be tough. Boys tend to test their limits whereas girls know when to draw the line, but are wonderfully dramatic. In our house I use a warning system to allow both children a chance to redeem themselves. I use a traffic light system, both children begin each day on green, after one warning they move to amber and if they need to be told again, they move onto red. The system works well, but it has been interesting to see how each child responds to it.
I have found that Mia responds well to encouragement and reassurance and knows when to stop, but can spend hours sulking quietly. Theo displays his anger at being disciplined, but moves on from the situation almost immediately.
When it comes to discipline, the only similarity I have found is that they both detest being proved wrong.
I don’t comply to gender stereotypes. If Theo wants to play with Mia’s doll or Mia wants to play superheroes and villains that’s fine by me. I have always tried to ensure that my children grow into their own personalities. It’s really interesting to see how their taste in toys, clothes and hobbies differ as they grow older.
Despite its challenges, I couldn’t imagine having two children of the same gender. I think the trick to parenting children of the opposite gender is to expect the unexpected. Be prepared for huge differences in their social, emotional and physical development. I naively thought they would develop at a similar speed. I foolishly believed that Theo would walk at 9 months like Mia, but he didn’t take his first steps until he was 16 months old. I’d definitely recommend encouraging sibling activity, but also make sure you allow them as much individuality as they require.