The author of a new book claims any parent who says they don’t have a favorite child is kidding themselves.
Jeffrey Kluger authored “The Sibling Effect: What The Bonds Among Brothers And Sisters Reveal About Us” which is out now. The book examines sibling relationships, but one of the most interesting aspects is Kluger’s look at favoritism.
“I like to say that 99 percent of all parents do have a favorite child and the other 1 percent are lying through their teeth,” says Jeffrey Kluger.
Kluger, a Time Magazine science writer, delves into many aspects of sibling relationships in the book, which is being published Thursday. One of the most fascinating aspects is his examination of favoritism.
As Janice D’arcy reports for the Washington Post, Kluger cites a study in which a sibling expert videotaped families over a period of time and concluded that parents often treat their children in ways that reveal bias and even if the action may be subtle, the children know exactly what’s going on.
Kluger attributes favoritism to a number of possible factors — genes, compassion, sibling order, personality, gender. As for the effect, predictably favoritism can trigger resentment, competitiveness between siblings (he uses the Kennedy clan as an example) and lingering self-esteem problems.
Kluger says being the favorite kid isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There is evidence that as those children who are favored get older they can fail to excel and may feel disappointment. However, as Paula Bernstein previously wrote on Babble, she’s not worried about playing favorites. She cites an article by Dr. Libby, author of “The Favorite Child” and makes some pretty good points:
…It’s only natural for parents to favor one child over the other and that it doesn’t necessarily create problems in the family — as long as the favorite status is rotated among the siblings. The problems arise when one child exclusively enjoys favored status. The favored child ends up feeling pressured to fulfill her parents’ expectations, while the other siblings feel resentful and bitter. “When the favorite child status is rotated among children, all children feel the security of their parents’ love and do not feel damaging resentment when siblings are favored,” writes Dr. Libby. Dr. Libby makes the point that favoritism isn’t the same as love. Parental love should be unconditional and supportive. While favoritism is passing, love is forever.
I’ve often asked my mom if she has a favorite child. She consistently says she loves us all differently and for different reasons but that she loves us all equally. For the longest time I thought that was just her line and that surely she has a favorite. However, now that I’m a mother of two I can totally understand what she means. I love my children so much and for different reasons because they’re both so different, but I can’t imagine loving one more than the other. Maybe that’s naive because they’re so young yet but I’d like to think that’s how it will be forever.
But my protestations mean little to Kruger, who ignores all parental protests to the contrary. He says parents should stop denying and focus on minimizing any shows of favoritism within the family unit even though he believes eradicating favoritism altogether is a futile exercise. As D’arcy reports, “a good way to do this is by acknowledging each child’s individuality. Art classes for one and soccer for another, and different academic goals based on varying abilities. Treating children differently is normal, the experts say, as long as the treatment is fair.”
Do you, like Kruger, believe all families have a favorite child? Do you have a favorite? Do you try to hide it? How do you deal with it?