Share this story

 | By Sheri Wohlfert

One-Size-Doesn’t-Fit-All With Parenting

When the doctor handed us our firstborn, I didn’t realize it, but along with 10 pounds of baby boy, I was also holding on to some ridiculous notions about parenting. By the time baby number three was racing through the farmhouse, it became abundantly clear that many of the notions I began motherhood with had to go, and the first among them was this: I will be fair and raise all my kids the same way. The day I let go of that notion and grabbed on to the truth that fair and equal aren’t the same, mothering became more joyful, peaceful and enjoyable. Parenting isn’t one-size-fits-all, so here are some ideas to help you embrace that truth.


The dreaded words:

“That’s not fair!” Accept the fact that you will hear them often. They are guaranteed to elicit a reaction, and that’s exactly why kids use them. They can send a parent backpedaling in an instant.

The response:

“I understand why you think that, but it’s my job to keep you safe, healthy and help you become holy, and this is what needs to happen.” If an earlier bedtime than siblings is the hot topic, assure them that when their brother was their age, he went to bed at 8:00 and when they turn 10, they can stay up until 9:00 as well. It’s about facts, not negotiation.


Most of the time when things don’t seem fair, kids just want to be heard. They want to let you know what they’re feeling, and I found that these times of tension often led to the best discussions about the real emotions and situations going on in their life.

Know them:

It’s our job to give our kids what they need, not what they want. Really knowing your children allows you to meet their needs. Getting to know them in times of peace rather than times of conflict will give you a great view of what makes them tick. I’m a big hugger, and I learned that one of my kids needed the hugs and affirmation like me while one just needed a wink and a nod, and the other one responded best to a simple smile and a short note in his lunch box or gym bag.

The golden ticket:

God created each of our children in his image. Psalm 139 reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I think it should also say “and differently” made. The gifts and struggles of our kids require a difference in resources, time and reaction. We are called to love them just as they are; our mission isn’t to make them into the “perfect child,” the mission is to help them discover who God made them to be. Some need clear structure and black-and-white boundaries. Some need wiggle room and negotiation. But they all need consistent love and an unwavering knowledge of your commitment to keep them safe, healthy and growing in holiness.

Peacetime talks:

Ask your kids for input about fairness and equality. Ask them what they need  in times of conflict, what motivates them, what helps them in times of stress and when and how you  can offer support. Have conversations about what ensures and what endangers their safety, what actions lead to good health and, most importantly, the daily pursuit of holiness. The pearls of wisdom you’ll gain from these talks will be a helpful treasure.

Sheri Wohlfert is a Catholic school teacher, speaker, writer and founder of Joyful Words Ministries. Sheri blogs at