If you have more than one child in your home, there will come a time when you will be accused of playing favorites with your children. “You like her better than me” or “you always let him get his way’ will be spewed rhetoric stinging your ears and remaining a constant reminder that no matter what you do, it will never be equal or fair. Realize that no matter what you do, your children will never fully understand your rhyme or reason. Often, trying to explain yourself or make them agree with you is quite simply breath wasted. However, if one of your children is constantly dealing you the ‘not fair‘ card you may want to listen.
Parents always say that they love all of their children the same. While this sounds appropriate, it is rarely true and nearly impossible to do. No two children are a like and every family is both blessed and cursed with children who present different personalities. In every instance, one child is comes out looking like the diamond. Trouble arises in families however, when the mostly mild mannered and studious child is always getting recognized for their accomplishments. When parents begin comparing children and saying things like ‘why can’t you be more like your sister, deeper emotional problems can develop. These problems, where a child feels like they aren’t the favorite and play a Cinderella role in the home can be the beginnings of deeply anchored self-esteem issues. Parents don’t necessarily mean to make comparisons or make one child feel ‘less than’ however actions speak louder than words to contrary.
The important thing as a parent is to accept responsibility for your feelings. Yes, it is easier to spend time with the child in your home who requires the least discipline. The child who keeps their room clean, goes to bed without a hitch and who rarely talks back will definitely catch less slack than he or she that tends to be argumentative. The child who has the easiest temperament will naturally attract the most positive attention. Unfortunately, that fact alone will have the ‘other’ child pushing the limits even more. They may feel that they have to initiate even more behavior just to get any attention at all. As you know, negative attention is better than no attention at all to a child that feels deprived. Sadly, this only makes things worse and can have parents playing favorites with their children even more.
Another thing that happens in families is that each parent seems to get along better with one child than another. This doesn’t mean that they love that child more, but just that they share a chemistry with one another. While a parent may feel guilty about, and the other kids will definitely pick up on this connection; this isn’t something you can necessarily control or should feel about it. In some ways, these secret connections between some parents and certain children provoke the playing favorites persona. What every parent should do is make certain that they split their time equally and try to find common ground with the all of their kids. And, as a parent it is best to not continuously get caught up in a routine of doing what is easier by spending more time and energy with one child rather than another.
The unfortunate side of playing favorites with children is that parents don’t intend to do so. They may use the older sibling or more well behaved child as an example in the hopes that it will make another child act better or feel they have an example of what they should be doing. But, this destroys the sibling relationships, causes a very deep sense of jealousy, and will in the end actually make things worse within the family. If this goes on for an extended period of time, the child that feels they aren’t the favorite will take on what is called a ‘step child’ attitude, stemming from the sense that they really aren’t cared about that much. They will also become distant and even harder to relate to as time goes on. The sibling relationship that ensues can be strained well into adulthood. The question then is how can parents be completely equal with all children. And the answer is that really you can’t.
What parent can do to avoid the stigma of playing favorites with their children is treat each child as an individual, while hanging on to a reliable set of rules. This means that the rules apply no matter what. And that these rules are the same forever child. Similarly, discipline should be tailored to individual needs but should remain relatively consistent and in line from one kid to the other. If your normally straight A student brings home a failing grade, it should be treated in the same manner as it is with a child that struggles in school constantly. When the rules are the same, the consequences can be expected and the discipline is consistent children in the family will feel more like equals.
No parent is perfect and no family is a perfect example of equality. The easiest way to tell if your child suffers from the playing favorite syndrome, is to listen. If they often talk about it, complain that things are unfair or make comments that suggest they feel less love than another kid in the house does then your best defense is to take it seriously. Trying to convince them otherwise or talk them out of their feelings just won’t work. Actions speak much louder than words and the bottom line is, it doesn’t matter if you think the claims are fabricated. Your child believes that you play favorites with your children and you should deal with it quickly! This doesn’t mean you have to feel manipulated by or indulgent in your child but rather you should take a concise look at your behaviors and perhaps see the reasons why your child may feel the way they do. don’t make the mistake of going overboard with this child either just try to find a place that represents balance and harmony, and that makes every child feel they have a special place in your heart.