Jayne h


Different kids, different rules?

My daughter picks me up on my seemingly inconsistent parenting skills when her brother gets away with things she never could.

Different kids, different rules?

As soon as she stormed through the back door and glared at me, I knew I was in for it.

“Why can he go up to his friend’s house on his own when I wasn’t even allowed to leave the cul-de-sac at his age?” demanded my daughter, as her younger brother trotted off to see his friend.

I instantly felt guilty. She was right and it wasn’t the first time my daughter had picked up on my seemingly inconsistent parenting skills.

In fact, she delights in telling me: “I went to bed at 8pm at his age and you’re letting him stay up ‘til 8.15pm. That’s not fair.”

“You wouldn’t let me have one of those at his age, so why is it okay for him to have one?”

“You told me off for doing that, so why isn’t he being told off?”

And so it goes on.

Changing the rules

I try my hardest to be consistent, I really do. But it is so difficult, don’t you find?

And while circumstances changed, which meant I was no longer comfortable about letting my son walking or cycling to the other end of our small estate to his friend’s house, I am still railing against accusations of inconsistency.

Even now, he complains that his sister was allowed to walk a couple of hundred metres ahead to school at his age but that I won’t allow him the same privilege.

It seems I’m not the only one to enforce different rules on siblings.

Dad Andy, who says he adopted a more laissez-faire attitude with his second and third children, says: “A lack of consistency is problematic. Children need to know where they stand and changing boundaries causes them stress and confusion.”

Becky Rasmussen confesses that she finds herself being harder on her oldest – a boy – than the younger daughter. “I find myself being a little harder on Sebastian when dishing out punishment … I tend to let things slide with her if fights happen,” she says. “They are so close in age that I can't say that rules change because there weren't many in the first place.”

Children’s author Abi Burlingham (@AbiBurlingham) has also found the rules changed for her second child. “The second has been allowed to do stuff earlier than the first one. It doesn't sound right saying it, but that's what's happened,” she admits.

And Sarah, who tweets as @stellian, says she believes it is because parents have fewer opportunities to reinforce rules second time round because of the constant juggling acts we all deal with.


Edna Murphy, mother to two grown-up sons, undoubtedly hits the nail on the head. She admits some rules got relaxed with her second “because it is quite hard to enforce age-specific rules, effectively two sets of rules. Put that down to exhaustion”.

Is it so bad to be inconsistent? Should we really enforce different rules for siblings? Or is it something else that I can just feel guilty about as a parent?


  • Linda


    Linda Jones, Editor

    03 November, 2011

    I find this fascinating - thanks Jayne. Don't feel guilty - that's my mantra on most things!

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    Emily Organ

    03 November, 2011

    I'm finding I have to get tougher with my three, maybe it's because they're only young still aged 5, 3 and 1. I find one plays up as soon as I deal with another one being naughty so I've got an iron rod rule at the moment (or like to think I have). I can imagine getting more lenient as my children get older and I remember getting very fed up with my brother (7 years younger than me) getting away with anything. He didn't even have to tidy his room whereas I'd had to endure a weekly bedroom inspection. I tell myself I won't be the same with mine but I can imagine it happening.

  • Small_blank

    03 November, 2011

    Very interesting. I have a stepson, who is allowed to do certain things and who has been brought up in a completely different way to that in which I am trying to bring up my daughter, so there are very different rules in our house which I feel that I am not in control of. I have to explain to my much younger daughter, that she has a different Mother to him, and that different Mother's may decide to do things different ways and that is why her stepbrother is allowed to do things slightly differently. It's very difficult though under these circumstances to make her understand, and learn what my values and beliefs are and is probably a matter for another post.

  • Jayne h



    03 November, 2011

    Thanks for your comments. It's fascinating to see how we try to keep to the same rules but struggle for whatever reason! I guess we are all trying to do our best. Phoebe - I can understand why it is so difficult, when you have another adult imposing their rules, too. And Emily - I'm sure I badger my daughter more than my son about tidying their bedroom ;)

    Linda - don't feel guilty? I thought that was a default position for a mother!

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    Ready for Ten admin

    03 November, 2011

    This is a great post - and really makes you think! I think that you do need to parent children differently because they are different people, with different levels of confidence, maturity and common sense. My daughter is 6.5 years old and is very young for her age. My 4 year old son on the other hand is the complete opposite. I do have to adapt my parenting style to suit each one, and often find I am much more relaxed with letting my son do various things that I don't feel my daughter is mature enough to handle. I strongly feel that most things to do with parenting it very much depends on the child in question.

    Ready for Ten Team

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