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Dr. Gabor Maté explains his 'no two children have the same parents' philosophy

'No two kids are raised in the same family.'

dr. gabor mate siblings family parenting

Dr. Gabor Maté explains why siblings in the same family can turn out so differently.

The nature versus nurture question has intrigued humans for as long as we've been philosophizing about our existence. What makes us who we are? How much of our personality and tendencies are a product of our genetics and how much of it is due to our upbringing?

Anyone who has raised more than one child can attest to the fact that children are not simply blank slates—each has their own innate personality. And anyone who has seen siblings from the same parents and the same household knows that kids can come from the same environment and turn out totally differently.

Some may look at how differently siblings turn out and assume that those difference are all due to nature, but as child development expert Dr. Gabor Maté points out, it's not just personality that makes a difference.


"No two kids are raised in the same family," he told Dahlia Kurtz, host of the "Live and Help Live" podcast. "No two children have the same parents."

Maté asked Kurtz if she had siblings, and she told him she had younger and older siblings. "You weren't raised in the same family," he told her, pointing out that she'd never had the experience of being the oldest child. She was the middle child, which he said could be quite difficult as middle children don't have the respect and authority of an oldest child or the cuteness and lovability of the youngest.

"Not only that, but when your parents had you and when they had your younger siblings, perhaps, they might have been at a different stage in their own personal development, or in a different stage of their relationship, or a different economic position," he said.

"Even more importantly, temperamentally every child is different and that means they evoke a different part of the parent," he added. "So even if a parent loves their kids equally—which I'm not questioning—they will not respond to the child in the same way. The child will not evoke the same responses from the parent, one child or the other. So no children have the same two parents."

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@dahliakurtz

How could your sibling be raised the same but turn out so differently? Maybe even a narcissist? Dr. Gabor Mate has the facsinating answer. You’ll never see yor sibling the same…For the full conversation, check out rhe link in bio. #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters #depressed #happy #gabormate #drgabormate #siblings #narcissism #parents #recoverty #trauma #help #healing #dahlia #bpd #anxiety #family #familygoals #siblingcheck #siblinggoals

He's right, of course. Not only are children unique, ever-changing individuals, but parents are too. The dynamics and circumstances of family life is always shifting, even in the most stable of families. One child might come along during a job layoff or a major, cross-country move. One child's formative years might hit just when their parents are hitting a rough patch in their marriage and another's might hit right when they're benefiting from counseling.

Speaking from experience, you couldn't parent each child exactly the same way even if you wanted to. First of all, different children respond differently to different things. One child might crumble under a stern look while another lets a parent's anger roll right off their back. One child might be a verbal processor who needs to talk through their feelings while another might need to express themselves physically or creatively in order to work out what's bothering them. Parenting children means parenting according to who each child is and what their unique needs and tendencies are. Trying to make it a uniform, perfectly "equal" endeavor is simply an exercise in frustration.

Maté is also right that different kids bring out different parts of us. Human relationships are complex, and trying to nail down parenting to one particular set of rules or one specific approach simply isn't realistic. You have to parent the child in front of you as whoever you are at the time, and both of those things is going to shift and change over time as you both learn and grow. It's what humans do.

And let's be real. Parenting can be exhausting, so those youngest kids really do get parents who are more relaxed and maybe a bit more lenient than the older ones, simply due to the amount of energy it takes to parent. We learn over the years what battles are worth fighting, what standards are worth upholding and which things can be tossed to the wayside without really doing any damage. Parenting is an ongoing learning process, so of course children who are years apart in age will have different parents in many ways, even if their parents are the same two people.

Dr. Maté just boils it down so beautifully and succinctly. "No two children are raised in the same family," and "No two children have the same parents." Wise words to take to heart whether you're a parent of more than one child or you have siblings yourself.


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