The Taboo Carnival topic this month had me in a bit of a quandary. You see, I am an only child who is the mother of an only child. I truly did not have a favorite parent growing up. I gravitated towards one over the other at times but that was more of a stage of life thing. As a family we were close. There was no need for me to have a favorite parent.
Tiny is still a wee one…only 3 years old. While she certainly sees her daddy as the “fun” parent, I wouldn't say she has a favorite parent. We each fill up her cup in different ways.
So I was kind of at a loss as to what to write about…
I really am not qualified to speak about a parent of multiple children having a “favorite” child. But since I am feeling brazen today, I'm going to go ahead and make a bold statement about it anyway.
Parents Have A Favorite Child.
Guess what? That's totally natural. Nothing to be ashamed of or worried over. In fact, more power to you.
We all have favorites in this world. These may change throughout different stages in our lives but the fact of the matter is, human beings do tend to favor certain people, places, and things. It is human nature.
It is a shame that parents feel the need to deny that they have a favorite child. Without fail, there will be a child you connect with differently than others. Perhaps it is the child most like you. Maybe opposites attract and that is why you prefer your child who is least like you. It does not mean you love your other children less. You just connect better with one particular child. And that favorite child could very well change over time.
Having a favorite child is not the issue. It is how you treat that favorite child that becomes a potential issue.
In her article Favoritism Does Exist, Ellen Weber Libby, Ph.D. makes some rather bold assertions. Her entire article is worth reading but I wanted to provide a short except that I felt was important.
Admitting to having a favorite kid isn't one of the biggest taboos in parenting. NOT admitting to having a favorite is! Denying what is true can be disturbing to everyone in the family, making everyone feel a little crazy and eroding healthy family relationships.
Two recently published studies, independent from one another, agree that favoritism:
• is common to families;
• can contribute to depression in both the favored and unfavored child;
• impacts all family members for life.
Children growing up as the golden child or the unfavored child are equally vulnerable to suffering from symptoms of depression. Longing to be the favorite child or working to maintain that status creates complicated issues for both the unfavored and favorite child. The personalities of each are likely to be marred by symptoms of depression: each child may struggle with loneliness or emotional isolation; achieving psychological independence; or having addictions that undermine the quality of their lives.
Interesting isn't it?
The whole idea of depression stemming from favoritism baffles me a bit. Most of the population has a sibling and as such would either be the favored or unfavored child. Therefore, every last one of us with a sibling should be running around depressed. Right? Um, no.
So I am curious to hear from all of you. What are your thoughts on this topic, especially after reading the article from Ellen Webber Libby?
After I wrote the above portion of this post, I stumbled on this little nugget in the post Parents: Its Ok To Have A Favorite Child and thought it was also worth sharing as it basically reiterates something I touched on earlier:
Favoritism vs. Love
Love is a tender feeling and strong affection that is usually accompanied by loyalty and devotion. Healthy love is unconditional and lasts a lifetime, evolving as people grow and change. For instance, parents express love for their newborns by holding the baby close to their chest — an inappropriate expression of love as children enter adolescence. Loving parents embrace all of their children and are devoted to their growth, safety, health and wellbeing. In return, they only expect love.
Favoritism, however, is conditioned on children filling a need or void in their parents' lives, or making parents feel good about themselves. The better the child makes the parent feel, the more likely the child will be favored and win the ultimate reward — confidence and power in knowing that they are the favorite child in their family.
While love lasts a lifetime, favoritism may or may not. Ideally, the status of “favorite child” rotates among children, lasting for only hours, days or months. In other families, however, one child may secure the position of favorite child for a lifetime. For instance, an only child is automatically the favorite and remains that way always.
This parent and child interaction may be unconscious or conscious. For example, when children are born with characteristics that remind a parent of loving grandparents, parents may unconsciously ascribe endearing characteristics to these children. Alternatively, many parents are conscious of preferring cooperative children to a combative sibling. Favorite child status can also be earned, as when a parent delights in a child's achievement. Other times the status is not earned, but is an accident of birth, as when a child is favored because of sex or birth order.
Unconditional love offers children security; it does not earn them special privileges. In contrast, favoritism usually does not offer children security and commonly does earn them special privileges. In exchange for making parents feel good about themselves, favorite children are more likely to get what they want and grow up feeling entitled. Favorite children often are not held accountable for their behaviors and face minimal or inconsistent consequences. The less favoritism rotates among children in families, the more likely favorite children are to grow up feeling the benefits of confidence and the risks of believing that the rules don't apply to them.
Here is a short list of several other insightful articles all which suggest that yes, parents play favorites and that this is normal and healthy. The issue lies in preferential treatment.
- Do Parents Have Favorite Children Part 1
- Do Parents Have Favorite Children Part 2
- What Do Infants Teach Parents About Favoritism?
- When Parents Favor One Kid Over Another, Is It Ok To Admit It?
- Mom Liked You Best
- When Favoritism Becomes Abuse
- Parents Playing Favorite…Inevitable?
- Spontaneous Conversations On Favoritism
- How Parents Can Deal With Having A Favorite Child
This is all very interesting to me seeing that I don't have to worry about playing favorites as a mother. For all you parents of more than one child, do you believe that it is better to admit to having a favorite child? How do you balance having a favorite child against your other children? Do you think it does cause harm, specifically depression, in both the favored and unfavored child?