Thursday, November 18, 2004

When parents play favorites

When parents play favorites

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Wednesday, November 17, 2004 10:42 PM

Part 1 of 3 parts

If there is one thing that can wreak havoc among brothers and sisters, it is favoritism. When parents favor one child over the other, they inadvertently start a war among the siblings.

It is easy to love one child more than another. There are many varied reasons that cause parents to show more affection for one than for the others. Not difficult to be cold to the child who is withdrawn and who is not as warm in displaying his feelings.

Unless we parents are aware and pay close attention to our feelings and behavior, we can easily fall into the favoritism trap. This daughter might be so cute and so demonstrative in her affectionate ways that we are naturally drawn to her, while a son is somehow always getting on our nerves with his behavior.

The first-born is usually the most welcomed of all the children. After all, there is indescribable joy when the first baby is born. It is an event that has a strong impact on the couple. One that is unforgettable. As the rest of the kids are born, it is somehow different. Though every birth can be a joyful happening, it isn’t the same as the first birth.

And the youngest also has a way of endearing himself or herself. Perhaps it is because being the last born allows the parents to focus more attention than when the children come in rapid-fire succession. This is why the middle children are often given less attention. They have a way of getting lost in the crowd.

What parents often do not understand is that when they favor one child, they run the risk of turning the other children against the favored one. Jealousy and envy are the harvest that parents reap when they practice favoritism. And both these feelings cause anger. Anger that can remain for a lifetime.

Children have an acute sense of justice. They watch their parents carefully and are quick to detect the slightest sign of favoritism. And when they do, it isn’t long before anger and resentment against both the parents and the favored one set in.

Since kids cannot easily express themselves in words, they have other ways of showing it. They become despondent, moody and irritable. They have less patience with the favorite, and later their resentment turns to hatred, especially if the favorite flaunts the advantages given by the parents.

Those kids who are not the favorites feel less loved. There is no doubt about that in my mind. They might never admit that it is so to their parents, but when they grow up, they are quick to say it to counselors and friends. And when war does break out among siblings, the angry accusations of favoritism will be thrown at both the parents and the favorite.

More tomorrow.


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