Do you find yourself frequently auditioning for the role of “favorite parent” in your house?
That’s actually not all that healthy of you, or good for your kids, according to this Psychology Today blog by Dr. Ellen Weber Libby, a psychologist and author of the book “The Favorite Child.”
For example, she said, a parent could try to woo the chld over to their side by enforcing limits lackadaisically or not at all, or by literally trying to buy love with toys or treats. Kids learn by coming up against boundaries and learning to adjust to them, however. It’s a less-than-fun process for them, and they usually express their displeasure with the parent they associate with their unhappiness.
It is normal for a child to have a favorite parent, she adds, and that allegiance may change over time. It’s also normal and common for a child to love both parents, but to favor one for whatever reason. And let’s face it — we love them so much, I think it’s natural for us to want them to think we’re awesome. perhaps even more awesome than daddy. But parenting is when you force yourself to put that aside and do what will help your children become successful, independent adults. I’d add that it seems to set up a squicky competitive dynamic with your spouse when each of you desires to be the favorite.
I know in my house it’s pretty much Girl Team and Boy Team — that is, each child is sort of aligned with their same-sex parent. Given their ages, I know this is totally normal, and since we each have a close and warm relationship with the child that likes us a little less, it doesn’t bother me. It used to, though. Things eventually have become more equal, but we both realize it’s because of the different roles we play in their lives — he’s the rock star, I’m the rock — that they behave differently toward each of us.
As with so much else in parenting, the key is remembering It’s Not About You. Weber Libby writes that parents need to acknowledge their desire to be the favorite, without letting it affect their parenting. This was what I found to be the most important point: “….it is necessary that….parents grow in understanding that it is not the role of children to affirm the adult.”
Are you the favorite? Have you ever tried to worm your way into that role?