Favored Child

Inevitably when my husband teaches the section about child-rearing in his Marriage & Family Sociology class, there are more than a few students who declare that parents always clearly play favorites between their children.  I often wonder how much if this is true favortism and how much is perceived favortism.  Even before I had kids of my own, I saw examples of both.  As the youngest of two children, I can honestly say that I never believed that my parents loved my sister more than me or me more than my sister.  (Ok, maybe when I was five and I didn’t understand why my fifteen-year-old sister got to stay up so much later than me.)  Sadly, I am not sure that my sister has felt the same way.

As I prepare for the birth of my third child, I think it may be time to pull out Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish for a brush up.  That book is a must-read for parents of more than one child because you realize that often sibling rivalry and the appearance of parental favoritism stem from avoidable parental mistakes.  For instance, when parents say, “I love you and your brother just the same” children often hear, “You don’t think I’m special.”  I try to tell my children, “I love you for the unique person that you are” or “I love ‘this thing’ about you” instead.  Because I do love them for the unique people that they are.  The book has lots of tips about various sibling issues, especially sibling conflict.

After recently reading, The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman I also wonder if the perception of parental favoritism is due to love miscommunication.  For instance, if the parent’s primary love language is “acts of service” they think they are showing their children love by doing things for them, coaching their team, packing a special lunch, etc.  However, all of these actions are meaningless to the child whose love language is “words of affirmation”.  Therefore, the child feels unloved because they aren’t receiving affirming words regularly and may assume that if they aren’t receiving them than his sibling probably is or become really upset when their parents compliment his sibling at all.  I really need to get my hands on his The Five Love Languages of Children, since the original book is more about spousal relationships.  Again, though, the idea is seeing each child as an individual with individual needs.

Now believe me, I am sure that I will make tons of mistakes as a parent.  It’s inevitable; I am only human.  It is really important to me, though, that my daughters grow up being close and on great terms with each other.  I don’t necessarily expect them to be BFFs, but I can cross my fingers and hope that the affection they share for each other remains this strong throughout their lives.  Nothing warms my heart more than when I hear one of my daughters describe the other one as her best friend.  Other friends may come and go, but we’re all stuck with our families.  I hope my girls grow up happy to be stuck with the families they have been given.

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