There has been a lot of talk lately about parents and favoritism among their children lately. It is a reality that happens in many families that brings feelings of guilt, shame and frustration. Did it happen to you while growing up? Is it happening in your current family unit?
Typically, sibling favoritism is not a calculated, desired outcome for any parent. Parents want to feel connected with all of their children. However, due to personality differences, temperament differences, and interest differences, certain parents will mesh better with certain children. It may not be fair and it may feel wrong, but nevertheless, it happens.
What can you do about it?
- Recognize each child’s gifts: Each child has something special to offer. They may be different from their sibling and they may be different from you but that doesn’t mean their gifts are not as valuable. What is each child good at? What is something beautiful and amazing about each child? Show your appreciation for what makes each child a valuable person and member of your family.
- Don’t compare: This is the downfall of so many families. One child is compared to another and someone always comes out short. It builds animosity on the part of the child who doesn’t measure up and guilt on the part of the child who is aggrandized. In other words, nobody wins.
- Find something to do together: You may be an extroverted parent who loves the outdoors, performing in plays, and going to big get-togethers with friends and family. One of your children may be an introverted child who loves reading books, building and taking things apart, and spending time with one or two people at a time. Where can your paths cross? Is there a class you can take together? A project you can do? In this case, perhaps building a car from a kit outside, joining a community theater where the parent is on stage and the child works on the set, or carving out time to read a Harry Potter book together out loud could be a way to connect. You can also ask your child to bend a little towards you– but not so much that they are compromising who they are just to please you. This was everyone grows but nobody breaks.
- Don’t try to change them: Telling children they should be more or less outgoing or interested in different things that they are, is like telling them that they should be less of themselves. If their behaviors are not destructive, just different from yours, it’s important to support them and love them for who they are. Parents can always encourage their children to try new things– just know that they may not love to do the same things as you or their siblings.
- Watch your reactions: It’s natural to connect with certain people over others. However, if you are finding that your praise and attention is consistently uneven (barring a big age difference/special needs that requires more attention to one child over another), you are sending a message to your children that one “matters” more than the other.
- Show & tell: Even if you are spending more time with one child than another, carve out that special time or even that special moment to show and tell your other children that they matter. Be aware and purposeful until this becomes a regular part of your interaction with each child—not that it should be forced, but rather, discovered.
- Listen: If one of your children feels that they are not getting the time, attention, or feedback needed to feel worthy and accepted, open your mind. What are you doing to contribute to that feeling? Be accountable and find ways to rectify the problem, as possible. Do they need more one-on-one time with you or are they simply asking for validation? It may be something small you can do, or stop doing, that can help your child feel valued and loved.
How have you dealt with these issues? Let’s chat about here or on my facebook site. Love to hear your voice!
Recent article on favoritism in the Washington Post.