Jenny is a 16 year old from New Jersey. She loves books, photography and God. She is also a feminist and an animal rights advocate. Her dream is to be a journalist who travels around the world.
A taboo topic that many parents do not want to acknowledge is favoritism- when a parent treats one child more favorably than the other. It may be unpleasant to think about, but it is a reality. Whether based on gender, age, personality or achievements, some form of favoritism can be found in the majority of families having two or more children.
Parental favoritism results when a parent feels like they can understand or relate to one child more than the other. It can damage the self-esteem of the child who believes that he or she is being treated unfairly. Parents usually think that that their favoritism is too subtle to notice but teens can easily tell if they are receiving less favorable treatment than a sibling. This will cause them to doubt their self-worth and make them feel like they don’t deserve their parent’s love as much as their brother or sister does. In the same way, the child receiving the more favorable treatment will know it. Over time, he or she may feel entitled to the special treatment and will expect everything to be handed to them later in life.
Parental favoritism can also damage the relationship between siblings. Parents don’t often notice this. The less favored, jealous child will turn on the prized one, blaming him or her for the unequal treatment. Sometimes I find myself resenting my little brother for the extra attention he gets even though it’s not his fault he gets treated that way.
Finally, parents risk their relationship with the less favored child. Teens will hold grudges and allow the painful memories of being less-liked as a child to poison their relationship with the parent. I definitely feel that the best way to keep yourself from unintentionally treating one child better than the other is to really try to understand who they are as individuals. You need to be able to see things from your child’s perspective. That way, you’ll be able to understand why your child perceives your actions the way they do. Acknowledge the differences between your children but do not openly place more value on the characteristics of one over the other. Treat your children differently if needed, but fairly. Value all your children for who they are, even if you seem to click better with one.
You can do this by spending time with all of your children individually and trying to understand their particular interests and views. That may sound like a really lame idea (your teen will probably tell you the exact same thing) but teens really do appreciate any efforts that their parents make in order to try to get to know them better. A lot of the times, parents don’t even try to make an effort to understand their teen’s interests and passions. If she’s in a band, ask her about her musical inspiration and go listen in on a few practices. If he’s passionate about theatre, offer to take him to see a Broadway show! Once again, even when teens seem annoyed, they are secretly pleased when parents show that they care about getting to know them. Just demonstrate that even though your own interests are different from theirs, you still want to be a part of whatever it is they’re doing. If you understand all of your children as individuals and know where they are coming from, it will be harder to treat one more favorably than the other.