It’s that every child is different. They arrive different. They are motivated differently. They learn differently. They express themselves differently. Their emotional responses to everything in life can be light years apart from their siblings and even you. Their strengths and weaknesses are like day and night from one another. And whether it’s your children or your students, many or sometimes, even most, will be different from you in all these ways.
That sounds obvious, but if you watch yourself as a parent or teacher, you soon realize that we expect them to respond as we do, to be motivated by what motivates us, to come from inner viewpoints that are similar to our own. To even have the same intuitive knowledge about people or right and wrong that we do. Even your first child may seem like an alien from Mars and throw you for a loop as a parent. (That difference may inadvertently insure that they remain an only child.)
To a certain extent it is their inalienable right to be different. The reality, of course, is that to some extent as social beings, we all have to learn to accept group limits and learn to adapt as best we can in a world that does not center around us.
The most helpful tool for recognizing and understanding many of these differences that I have found, so far, is the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. My husband and I are extreme opposites on every area of personality that this attempts to describe. (Married for fifty-four years, we consider our marriage a witness to the possibilityof world peace. Though we admit that his intense dislike of change and my devout cowardice at the thought of raising five children alone may have been significant factors.)
And our five children are mixes of every imaginable combination of our personality traits. Imagine my surprise when everything that worked so well with number one, evoked a totally opposite response from number two, etc., etc., etc.
Though as a past consultant on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’ve done workshops on its significance in education, spirituality, marriage, and management, at seventy-five I am not up to date on the best resources. The internet has many, but the quality varies greatly. If you are interested in following up on this, use the Association for Psychological Type as a guide.
Addendum: For examples of differences in a first and second grade class see post: Important Things I Learned from First Graders When I Was Forty: June 28