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Why I Don't Worry About Playing Favorites

“You like Ruby more than you like me!” my 8-year-old daughter Jesse screamed the other day during an argument.

Of course, she knew exactly what to say to upset me. No parent wants to be accused of playing favorites.

Although I didn’t say it at the time, at that moment, I did like Jesse’s little sister more. But that’s only because Jesse and I were in the middle of a fight. The truth is that while I occasionally like one of them more than the other, I always love my daughters equally (because how can you measure love anyway?).

Parents are only human, after all. It makes sense that occasionally, we’re going to clash with our kids’ personalities and prefer one to the other.

Still, I often fret that playing favorites will exacerbate sibling rivalry and create family tension. Don’t most parenting manuals say favoritism is psychologically damaging?

But, after reading Dr. Ellen Libby’s recent post on The Huffington Post, “Parents: It’s Okay to Have a Favorite Child,” I’m going to try not to worry about occasionally playing favorites.

Dr. Libby, author of The Favorite Child, writes that 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.

Interestingly, recent research has shown that biology doesn’t matter when it comes to playing favorites, personality does.

I strive to treat my daughters equally, but as I frequently remind them, they are different individuals with different personalities and different needs. When they ask me whom I love more, I always answer truthfully, “I have more than enough love to go around.”

My husband and I do our best to have special “Mommy Time” and “Daddy Time” with each child so they each get the opportunity to feel favored.

Dr. Libby argues that as long as children feel secure in their parents’ love, favoritism won’t cause psychological damage. What do you think? Should favoritism be avoided? Do you ever play favorites?

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adwriter/

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