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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.

All images provided by Kat Chao

A photo of Kat and her mom, and a bowl of her mom's famous curry

True

Whether it’s the mac n’ cheese that reminds you of simpler times, or the exotic spiced chicken recipe you acquired from your travels, every meal tells a story.

This rings especially true for people whose families immigrate to different countries to start a new life. Immigrant parents often not only save every penny, but spend most of their time away working in order to build a future for their children. Each comfort meal they manage to provide their kids in the very few spare hours they have tells the story of love and sacrifice.

For Kat Chao, that meal was her mother’s Korean curry.

korean foodA photo of baby Kat and her mom and dad

Growing up, Kat’s mom worked weekends to support her family. But that didn’t stop her from waking up Saturday morning to dice up some beef and fresh veggies and throw them into a large pot so that Kat’s dad could heat it up and serve it with some rice to her and her brothers later.

Curry was a quick, easy and inexpensive way to feed a full house, but it served more than just practical purposes. As Kat would wake up to the enticing aroma, she was reminded that her mom was always taking care of her, even if she couldn’t physically be there.

koran curryYUM

As Kat grew a little older, her attitude towards her mother’s curry shifted. Instead of looking forward to it, she would “roll her eyes at it,” as is customary of the rebellious teen. Those less-than-positive feelings were only exacerbated by the media constantly labeling carbs, therefore rice, as “bad.” As a kid who struggled with weight, her comfort food became a source of discomfort.

But as an adult, and now a mom herself, Kat has reached a full circle moment.

korean recipes, albertsonsKat, all grown up with her own familiy

As she makes her own kids the exact same curry dish (okay, maybe a leaner cut of beef, and organic veggies…but otherwise exactly the same!) Kat finds a whole new appreciation for the recipe, knowing how hard her mom worked to even make it happen.

Kat was lucky to have grown up with a meal to look forward to each night. Other kids aren’t so lucky. 1 in 8 kids currently experience food insecurity in the United States. But there’s an opportunity to decrease those numbers.

For every O Organics product you purchase, the company will donate a meal to someone in need through the Albertsons Companies Foundation—for up to a total of 28 million meals.

Is there a dish from your childhood that you’ve longed to rekindle with? You could do like Kat does and give it an O Organic twist. Luckily, the O Organics brand has a wide array of affordable ingredients, so creating healthy swaps is easier than ever. Plus, you can provide nourishment to another family at the same time.

Just think—the next meal you prepare could make all the difference to someone else. If every meal tells a story, that’s certainly a story worth telling.

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