Why you shouldn’t play favorites when it comes to your kids
There is no such thing as parenting each child the same. Every child is different. The situation in which the child was born, the family structure, life structure, the parent—are all different. Some children resonate more with one parent over the other. They may remind them of themselves when they were younger-bringing back happy feelings, or they may bring on a different temperament that does not jive with the rest of the crew. Some parents feel as though they can get along more easily with one child than with another.
And guess what? Your kids feel it, know it, and live it. Alfie Kohn said so poignantly, “Nothing is more important to us when we’re young than how our parents feel about us. Uncertainty about that, or terror about being abandoned, can leave its mark even after we’re grown.” What is more important than our actions as parents is our children’s perceptions of our actions. If they feel like there is a favorite, and they are not it, that becomes their reality. Having favorites in the family can be incredibly destructive to the parent-child relationship and to the siblings’ relationship.
Children react differently to feeling special or slighted. They may have an inflated self-esteem or a terribly low one. They can try to prove themselves to their parents as being different from what they are perceived to be by acting out or by behaving incredibly well, too well. They may treat others differently by feeling entitled or in debt to others’ care and love. These relationship patterns that begin within the nuclear family can extend to future relationships with friends and significant others.
When you feel like there is something putting you off about your child, take some real time to think it through. Have you figured out their temperament—does it work with yours? Do they remind you of someone in your life that was unkind to you? Are there qualities your child possesses that you like/dislike? Why? If they remind you of you, do they remind you of the best or worst sides of you? Did your parents play favorites when you were growing up? Thinking through some of these questions can help you accept your child for who they are and reconcile any differences you have that are playing a role in favoritism.