Why Barack Obama Parented Malia and Sasha Differently

Malia and Sasha Obama are a part of a select group of presidential children that have lived the majority of their younger years in the public eye.

At a recent appearance at a Splunk event in San Francisco, former President Barack Obama spoke about why he parented his daughters differently.

Malia and Sasha Obama
Malia and Sasha Obama | Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

How Barack Obama says raising children is like raising plants

The former POTUS compared raising and parenting children to bringing up plants.

He said, “They’re a bamboo or they’re an oak or they’re a chestnut. They all need water, sunlight, some TLC, but how they grow and what pace, when the branches sprout, when they flower at any given time, it’s just different. And so, our daughters were different, and as they got older, they became identifiable.”

Obama said that Malia has a “calm temperament” like him, while Sasha is more like Former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Barack Obama on the ‘equity’ and ‘fairness’ of parenting

“In parenting, the idea that you do the exact same thing with each child the same way actually doesn’t make sense. There has to be equity and fairness in terms of wanting them to get to the same outcomes, but we had to take sort of different strategies with our girls on certain things,” Obama continued.

He also said that parenting is a “good leadership lesson.”

“What I found with my staff is, there’s some people where I could be more blunt with, and some people, I have to be a little more, what do the girls call it, ‘compliment sandwiches,’ trying to wrap it around the criticism where you’re like, ‘You’re wonderful. That was a terrible memo. I love you.’ There’s a little bit of that,” he continued. “You’ve got to give folks enough room and ownership to be able to figure stuff out, and by doing that, it means they’re going to be making mistakes. That’s part of that process of development.”

What are Sasha and Malia Obama up to now?

Both Malia and Sasha attended Sidwell Friends School, the common school for many children of presidents, including the Chelsea Clinton, Al Gore III and the daughters of Richard Nixon.

Malia, 21, now goes to Harvard University. She took a gap year before she started college. This fall, she began her third year at the university. Sasha, 18, goes to the University of Michigan. She started school there this fall.