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Parenting

Have You Been Playing Favourites?

Favouritism on your kids can cause their childhoods to be marred by unpleasant memories, where they might ultimately acquire the label of the black sheep of the family or the star child as they grow older. Find out how to approach the subject of unequal treatment.

As a child, we often dread that one question that ominously pops out: “Who do you love most, mummy or daddy?” Some might be stumped for words, while others proudly declare their love for one parent, but such a seemingly harmless answer can actually be hurtful to the unfavoured. This applies to modern day favouritism during parenthood as well, when you unwittingly shower praises for a child and neglect the other sibling.

Letting this become a habit can eventually snowball into a much more serious family problem in the future. You might not realise it, but children can pick up even the slightest act of biasness from adult figures in their lives. They are at a pivotal stage where they yearn for attention and crave special alone time with you.

It can be hard for you to own up because most adults do it unintentionally. This issue is not exactly out in the open, as it is a social norm for parents to treat their child with equal love and care. However, it occurs frequently for families with two or more kids and they display favouritism for different reasons. Here are the common ones we’ve gathered.

  • Birth Order
    If you’ve three kids, the secondborn is probably the unlucky one (known as the middle child syndrome). You adore the oldest because they’re more reliable and can set a good example for siblings or you are always hovering around the youngest baby and ensuring that they’re safe. That leaves the not-too-old-but-not-too-young child constantly ignored.
  • Gender
    These parents place high emphasis on gender preferences, where they favour sons more than daughters or vice versa. Though the likelihood of such stereotypical cases is diminishing, it does happen from time to time. Or it might be due to clashing traits, such as a strong-willed mother and a stubborn daughter.
  • Star Qualities
    Then there’s the prodigy who is good at everything or the good-natured child who requires no fretting on your part. This often results in parents comparing the duller sibling to the brighter one, hoping that an old-fashioned “Your sister scores ‘A’ on every test, while you wasted your time playing games. Why can’t you be more like her?” will turn the situation around.

From a psychology standpoint, the unbalanced amount of love mainly results in sibling rivalry and poor family dynamics. According to Dr Karl Pillemer, renowned author and gerontologist, the perception of unequal treatment has detrimental effects on not one, but all the siblings.

In any relationship, there would definitely be one that gets on better with the other. So when you feel a greater affinity towards one child, you need not be alarmed. It’s fine to enjoy this special connection as long as you’re mindful about the feelings of your other precious tots.

How Can Parents Prevent Themselves From Over-favouring?

  1. Focus on Admirable Qualities instead of Shortcomings
    Let’s say personality traits are the root of the problem, and you naturally gravitate towards the child who has more things in common with you. But is that an excuse for always responding coldly to the other party? When meeting up with teachers, probe them on the good behaviours and how they’ve been performing in school. You will soon realise the understated charms that you’ve missed out in the past.
  2. Set Clear and Fair Boundaries
    Firstly, determine the factors that predisposed you to favouring one child over another. Are there obvious imbalances in terms of your treatment and their behaviours? Always take the other kids into consideration. Try asking how they feel towards a particular family situation. For instance, if one enjoys the privilege of being driven to school because the place is far away from home, see if you can find a common ground to ensure fairness.
  3. Express Your Love Frequently
    During a family day, let your children know that you cherish all of them and appreciate each for the unique individual they are. Tell your children things like, “I want you guys to know that you are all amazing in your own ways, and each of you has a special place in my heart.” End it off with little forehead kisses or a big group hug! The bigger kids might not show much reaction, but they are secretly smiling on the inside.

At the end of the day, always remember that each child is special in their own way, and they should never feel neglected or feel in competition with the other siblings intentionally or unintentionally. What are your views on this matter? Drop us a note down below. 

Biocair