I’m guessing you’re all aware of the recent widespread brouhaha caused by a Babble blogger who revealed her preference for one child over another in a highly controversial manner. I declined to comment on this post at the time, because there was such an onslaught of reactions it seemed pointless. But I have certainly thought about it a lot. One of the things I thought was unfortunate was the fact that the blogger’s original point was so valid, and so valuable—but it was totally lost in the fray of the way she expressed it, and the outrage that expression generated.
It would be so simple if we could all feel an absolute balance of love among all our children, but the reality is that favoritism happens. It happens quite often, in fact: A high percentage of parents (65% of moms and 70% of dads) consider one of their children their favorite: usually the oldest. But parents are right to worry about it. In addition to the inequities in how children are treated, favoritism can lead to competition, and feelings of guilt for the favorite child and jealousy and resentment for the less favored one. But having a favorite child doesn’t have to be a tragedy. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a big deal.
The key is to keep an eye on the damaging stuff, rather than focusing on the unrealistic goal of a constant even-steven state. Here is Parenting expert Michele Borba’s three step plan to help keep things from getting out of hand:
Step 1. Take a parent reality check.
Your first step is to take an honest self-appraisal to your feelings about your children. Then tune into your typical daily interactions and how those actions might be perceived by your kids. Do your self-appraisal over the next few days so you can really get a more accurate assessment of your behavior.
Your key test is this: “Do your eyes light up with the same intensity for each of your kids?” And even more important: “Would your kids agree with your verdict? Might you be playing favorites or putting too much pressure on one kid or another?
If you admit you may be playing favorites, then pat yourself on the back for honesty. This is one of those tougher moments in parenting. But don’t stop! Dig deeper. Here are a few more questions to help you get a grip on what’s going on to help you know what to do.
Here are a few things to consider. Do you:
- Expect more of one child?
- Give one kid more attention?
- Take sides?
- Listen to one kid’s side more or assume one kid is right?
- Compare your kids in front of each other?
- Encourage rivalry in academics, sports, or popularity by acknowledging one kid over another? Pay more attention to one child’s hobbies, friends, school, and interests?
- Distribute chores, rewards, and opportunities fairly?
- Light up with the same intensity when you see each of your kids?
Step 2. Commit to change.
Read the rest of Michelle Borba’s advice at The Mother Company.
photo: Cia de Photo/flickr