Family dynamics play a huge impact on how children are formed into adults. Research shows that our birth order also has a hand in how we turn out. The oldest child may take on a leadership role in the family, while the youngest may be the most carefree. Extended family members and our interaction with them also adds up into the mix. One other factor also is how we perceive favoritism among siblings. We often see the one who gets away with most as the most favored one, while the one where a much higher form of expectation, be it in academics, good behavior, even in household chores, is often perceived as the more unfavored child.
Though parents may try to deny it, there is always a favorite child in the family. When you read mommy confessions in parenting forums, it is very common to hear mothers admit to having a preferred child. When we think back on our childhood, we often remember a time or two where we feel that our parents may not have been totally fair to us. While favoritism is common, it often shifts from one child to another, depending on who is “better” on that day or time. However, favoritism can be damaging when it is centered solely on one child, leaving the other siblings with feelings of rejection.
As a parent, you might not be conscious on playing favorites, but the sad thing is, children often perceive it even if parents don’t admit it. Signs of favoritism may include letting a child get away more often than the other children, how you talk and interact also shows which child makes you more relaxed and calm. Your expectations and how you talk about your children to others also shows if there are any favorites. It may not be honestly admitted, but our how we play favorites will always have a way of showing.
Jeffrey Kluger, author of “The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us,” cites that the favored child can have problems when they grow up. They might suffer severely when they fail to meet expectations. This is simply because they grew up overconfident, with feelings of entitlement and the thinking that they can get away with anything. While those children who felt rejected for being the less favorite could have unresolved feelings of anger and often feel inadequate.
For parents to avoid hurting their children unintentionally with favoritism, the best way would be to admit to it, and to be honest about it. Parents are just humans and will also have their own set of biases and preferences, and if there is a child that seem to match up with their parent’s personalities, it would be hard not to show more attention to them. Handling favoritism is not denying its existence. It is vital to accept it as a reality and doing ways on how to make it work for you and your children, and not break apart your family.
There should also be a clear avenue for expressing feelings and emotions. Often, when children feel that parents are being unjust, they would clam up and bottle up their hurts inside. This often would flare up into unintentional bouts of anger and bad behavior. Parents should make it a point that children grow up without fear of expressing themselves. Though children might not understand things clearly, having them express themselves will also allow parents to be able to explain the situation better and be able to clear up any misunderstandings.
Lastly, parents can learn more about their behavior towards their children from others. Most parents get defensive when well-meaning people tell them something about how they handle their children. While there might be those that are just being judgmental, there are those people that really do care and are really trying to help. Parents who are open minded and are willing to listen to others will more likely be able to check and adapt behaviors that can prevent obvious favoritism.
Building a family and raising children is a tough job. While having favorites may not be avoided, parents can show their love to their children in different ways, and their love for them is the same, and never less.
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