Jane Nelsen, author of the seminal Positive Disciipline, advocates — above all else — empathy as a parent’s guilding principle. Here, Nelsen offers a way to teach a child how expansive a parent’s love can be, no matter how many siblings are in the picture:
“Nine-year-old Alicia was sure her parents loved her four-year-old brother more than her. After all, he was the first boy. One evening, mom sat down at the kitchen table with her daughter and said, ‘Honey, I would like to tell you a story about our family.’ She had found four candles of varying lengths. ‘These candles represent our family.’ She picked up one long candle and said, ‘This is the mommy candle. This one is for me.’ She lit the candle as she said, ‘This flame represents my love.’ She picked up another long candle and said, ‘This candle is the daddy candle.’ She used the flame from the mommy candle to light the daddy candle and said, ‘When I married your daddy, I gave him all my love — and I still have all my love left.’ Mom placed the daddy candle in a candle holder. She then picked up a smaller candle and said, ‘This candle is for you.’
“She lit the smaller candle with the flame from her candle and said, ‘When you were born, I gave you all my love. And look. Daddy still has all my love, and I still have all my love left.’ Mom put that candle in a candle holder next to the daddy candle. Then she picked up the smallest candle and, while lighting it from the mommy candle, said, ‘This is a candle for your brother. When he was born I gave him all my love. And look — you still have all my love. Daddy has all my love. And I still have all my love left because that is the way love is. You can give it to everyone you love and still have all your love. Now look at all the light we have in our family with all this love. This is how love works.”
More experts, more opinions: find out how parenting wizards Adele Faber, Christine Carter, and Richard Weissbourd suggest parents tackle this question.