When Parents Play Favorites

Published November 15, 2014 by teacher dahl

favorites 2

“Yes I do have a favorite,” admits Tricia*, mom of three. “It’s because I feel that he needs me more than his more independent siblings do. He reminds me so much of myself that I feel so connected to him.”

Janet*, mom of four, also admits to being more protective of one particular child. “She never assumes, never expects, hardly makes demands. I’m not saying she’s the nicest, kindest, because she’s not. But she’s just the one as a parent, you’re more protective of.”

Preferential treatment?
You’d assume that the favorite child gets the most attention, the most love, the most gifts. But is this really the case?

“I can’t say I treat her differently,” says Janet. “I do however, defend her more than the others when they argue amongst each other. Not because I don’t think she can defend herself, but because she allows people to get away with things more often than she should.”

Tricia, on the other hand, feels she gives her favorite even less attention: “I am gentler with him and more forgiving of his faults. But recently, because my eldest is beginning to notice the gentleness, I make a conscious effort to give equal punishment to my son. Ironically, I spend less time with him. Perhaps to mask what I truly feel inside?”

favorites pixThe reason for favorites
Family and child psychotherapist Bec Yao, Ph.D. says parents don’t usually embark on parenthood by picking a favorite. It’s something that happens over the course of time.

“Parents start out equally loving all their children. But some factors manifest, and to the eyes of people around, one child is favored over another,” she says. “Some of these factors are: health of the child upon birth, birth order, physical features, or when a child is more talented than another and would be asked by parents to perform in front of relatives and friends. Some children can also be more outgoing than others and this behavior gives pride to parents when friends and relatives say their child is so sociable, talented, and so on.”

Janet agrees. “Personality makes all the difference. Children are people that will eventually grow up, and they are people you did not choose. Although you raise them all the same, their personalities vary uniquely from each other. Some are more compatible to yours, some just aren’t.”

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How non-favorites remain non-favorites
If a child feels that he is not favored by his parents, he will most likely resent them and the favored sibling. This can cause trouble, further cementing his spot as the least favored child.

“He will seek attention in other ways,” explains Dr. Yao. “If a child perceives that each one is treated equally, he will not resort to means to protect himself. He can always run to Mama or Papa to fix things at home. However, the moment a child perceives that parents are unable to fix things, he will take matters in his own hands, literally, and fights will ensue. This becomes a vicious cycle of the parents disciplining the aggressor and the cycle of favor continues.”

Trust issues
It’s okay if you can’t help having a favorite as long as you build a strong foundation of trust. This, according to Dr. Yao, begins at birth: “Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory says trust should be built in the child as early as infancy. During the first few months of life, a baby needs to know that this is a trusting world because his needs are met. With this foundation, parents can have the luxury of favorites because the other children will have had enough deposits in their emotional bank accounts by their parents.”

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Balancing act
To keep comparisons at bay, Tricia has a strategy: “One-on-one dates are really key. My kids need to know and feel that they are regarded as individuals. They feel special also when they do not need to fight for the attention of their parents.”

Janet also goes on dates with her kids. “We have date days and we make sure that we converse with each child,” she says. But because she can’t really keep track of everything, she encourages her children to speak up if they feel something is amiss.

She also adds that the solution to favoritism is acceptance: “Whether you and your kids are compatible or not, you embrace their personalities and you see beyond that, and accept the people they become based on how you raise them, and you pray that they will be all that you hope for them to be.”

Giving attention to each child and making sure each one is heard will keep them from feeling there is a favorite. In the long run, it isn’t about who the favorite child is, but how everyone gets along and loves one another as a family.

source : Yahoo she

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