Saturday, November 20, 2004

Treated fairly, siblings can be the best of friends

Treated fairly, siblings can be the best of friends

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Saturday, November 20, 2004 12:14 AM

Last Part

I would like to share with you some thoughts about favoritism and how we parents can avoid creating undue pain and discord among our children.

I have always been very sensitive about the issue of favoritism in the family. Perhaps it is because, as a counselor, I have seen the damage it causes. This is why my wife and I have been very careful to avoid any hint of favoritism with our two daughters.

Ever since they were little, we always tried to be as even-handed as possible with them. If we bought a gift for one, we would buy a gift for the other. If we had something nice to say about one, we needed to find something nice to say about the other. If we went shopping for one, the other came along and we would buy something for her too.

Children want to be treated fairly, just as we adults do. They get upset when this does not happen, just as we grown-ups do. They get down and depressed when they are victims of unfairness, just as adults do.

Yet, there are parents who are very cruel in their display of favoritism. It is as if they make little effort to hide it. In so doing, they send a strong message to their other kids and it reads: “I don’t love you as much.” Of course, the parents will deny this, but to no avail. “Actions speak louder than words,” and their behavior is a clear indication of how they truly feel. In so doing, parents cause discord among their children. They turn them against each other.

Ask your friends to rank their siblings in terms of whom did mom or dad love more. Very few will tell you they were all loved evenly. Most will have horror stories about unfair behavior and favoritism.

My wife and I were extremely careful not to let this happen. In fact, we constantly encouraged the girls to stand together, to defend each other if need be. By dealing with them evenly and not allowing any hint of favoritism, we helped to bond them in the deep friendship they enjoy today.

We would always tell them to remind us if they felt they were treated unfairly. And when they did, we cleared up the matter and, if need be, apologized and made things right.

When one took up martial arts, so did the kid sister. They both took up swimming, riding, shooting, etc. What was good for one was good for the other if she wanted it. We were not prepared to give to one and shut out the other.

We watched closely for signs of resentment and would ask, “Do you feel it’s unfair?” And if they had a point, we would fix it.

Sometimes one was more lovable, more affectionate than the other. They both had their moments, but we held steady in our strategy to never show favoritism but always to do things to promote close ties between them.

Today they are best of friends. We smile when they hold each other and tell us that their friendship is such that “we won’t ever let a man come between us.”


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