Why Parents Bond With Their Kids Differently, and How to Deal With Favoritism at Home
One in every 10 parents admitted to having a favorite child, a survey says. It may still be considered a big taboo in the parenting handbook, but favoritism is a reality that many folks deal with. And according to specialists, parents who have a preferred kid don’t need to go on a guilt trip just yet. Because it is not all bad — if handled properly, that is.
Bright Side summarized important points from experts that explain why it’s okay to like your kids differently. We also prepared tips that could help you manage your children’s perceptions.
Having more fondness for one kid is completely normal, and admitting it can help you become a better parent.
It is completely possible to feel a stronger bond with just one child, especially if he or she has more similarities with you. As one therapist puts it, “Parents are humans,” and psychologically speaking, it’s normal to be drawn to people who affirm us.
And the sooner you recognize your personal biases, the sooner you can be mindful of how you treat your youngsters. Keeping your preferences in check can improve your parenting relationship and help foster a healthier family environment.
There are many valid reasons why you connect with your kids differently.
One of the reasons is because that child shares more of your personality and is mirroring your traits back at you. It could also be a seasonal fondness, depending on who behaves better. For example, one mom wrote, “Right now, my 8-year-old son is a little know-it-all... Frankly, it’s irritating. In contrast, my 5-year-old daughter is in a very cute, snuggly stage in life. She is melting my heart every day.”
Another factor that could affect your relationship with your kid is your own childhood experiences. Maybe he or she reminds you of someone that made you feel either positive or negative emotions. If it’s more on the bad side, professionals suggest treating your child as a separate individual, without the weight of your past experiences.
Parents may feel happier and healthier when they spend more time with the dearest offspring.
Knowing who the mother or father is closest to can have an impact on the quality of their care as they get older. One study found that elderly mothers recover faster from an emergency and experience better mental health if it’s their favorite child that tends to them.
Even if parents do not acknowledge it, children can feel if there’s favoritism in the family.
Instead of sweeping your feelings under the rug, it’s better to deal with them because your kids can perceive them. According to a survey, 34% of the child respondents felt that there was a frontrunner in their parents’ hearts. In most cases, they also guessed wrong, assuming that the most successful brother or sister was the top pick. But according to the poll, parents usually preferred the youngest kiddo.
This could be because they already had child-rearing experiences and are now more confident and at ease with the “baby” of the family. Experts also said that in terms of birth order, the eldest is the spawn who gets the most privileges, while the youngest receives the most affection. The middle children don’t usually get the chance to have their parents all to themselves.
Despite the varying relationships you may have with your kids, it is important to treat them equally.
According to a clinical psychologist, if kids grow up in an environment where they are often treated unfairly, it will affect the child’s sense of worth. As much as possible, parents should make an effort to avoid discriminatory behavior. One way for folks to appear neutral is to settle disputes impartially. Avoid taking a side and guide your children into resolving the issue among themselves.
It is also worth mentioning that in the survey, 52%-62% of the kids said that favoritism didn’t necessarily lead to any long-lasting damage in their relationships.
Bonus: Here are some tips that can help you manage your children’s perceptions.
- If your kid accuses you of playing favorites, validate his or her feelings and address the issue directly.
Instead of dismissing them, empathize by saying, “I know you feel upset that you think your sister is the favorite, I would be too.” Then explain the situation by laying down facts and reasons why you get along better with his or her sibling. For example, “Your sister and I have personalities that match, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t love you.” You can also state the sibling’s good habits that helped them earn brownie points.
- Spend one-on-one time with each of your munchkins.
Develop a plan to create equal bonding time with all your kids. Take into consideration the children’s individual needs and interests when organizing activities for them.
- Give equal praises and punishments, and let them know that you love them all.
Whenever you commend them for a job well done, try to be as specific as possible. Instead of “Good job,” say “It was nice of you to help out that old lady.” In terms of punishment, try to reflect if you are making exceptions for one child. Then come up with consequences that are age-appropriate as part of being fair.
- Avoid comparing your children or singling out one of the siblings.
Try not to say things like, “You should behave more like your brother,” or point out the flaws of one child in front of the other. Pitting your kids against each other may result in an unhealthy dynamic between them.
- If you feel that the situation is affecting your family’s relationship and mental health, seek help from a professional.
Unresolved issues may affect your children negatively, and it could spill over into their adulthood. So if you find yourself or your partner struggling with favoritism, or if you are unable to handle things fairly, consider seeing a family therapist.
Do you think favoritism exists in most families? In your case, do you feel more affinity toward one of your children? As a kid, did you feel like your parents had a favorite among you and your siblings?