We were on a routine trip to the grocery store when I realized how my 20-month-old noticed how much more his younger sister was favored. When people would look their way, instead of his bashful “hi” like he would sometimes say before his baby sister, his greeting became, “Baby cute?”, “Sissy ad-o-ble!”. People usually only complimented her, and he had conformed to this new routine…and adopted their script.
My feelings hurt for him and I wondered how his 1-year old self processed this. He loved “Sissy” too so I wondered if he even slightly understood this imbalance the way I did. I wondered how people could overlook HIS “cuteness” so easily. I thought about how consistent favor directed toward only one would affect them both and their relationship with each other as they grew older. At this point, I realized I needed to be proactive in protecting their emotional health and become more intentional with fostering their self-worth.
But first, why does this even happen? Is it intentional?
7 Reasons People Favor One Child Over The Other
1. People love babies! Let’s face it, little toes, little fingers…little people in general are adorable and adults are wired to meet their physical and emotional needs first.
2. Personality and behavior. It is easier to bond and interact with the kid who displays the happy, friendly, easygoing disposition than with the kid who is consistently defiant, unfriendly or introvert. Adults also tend to seek and protect child they consider the “underdog” or the one that appears more timid.
3. The child is sick. Naturally a sick child will need more attention and can easily require more favor.
4. Adults see themselves in the child. Adults “take” to the child that they see themselves in. Without even being aware, they can end up interacting more with the child they “get”.
5. The child is gifted or talented. Most times people are just amazed and attracted to their God-given talents and want to be a part of that experience.
6. It’s all in your head. It could be that instead of favoritism, you notice a stronger bond between family members and your desire for the same bond causes you to feel insecure.
7. You, the parent, are guilty of it. Of course, we as parents love all our children more than anything. Children are born with different personalities and different strengths which justify parents to meet their needs accordingly. But let’s be honest. Sometimes parents just “vibe” more with the child that compliments their own personality and unintentionally ends up with a favorite.
So how do we stop the cycle?
If People Favor One Child, Advocate For The Other
Speak up for your child! People usually don’t intend any harm when they favor your child. However, we do need to be cautious of sexual predators who use kindness to groom our children for harm…but that’s another conversation. I had to remember that these strangers in the stores have no idea how many before them have complimented one of my children more than the other. Only I knew this, so I came up with lines to help us all cope. My favorite was: “Thank you. She gets her cuteness from her big brother.”
After all the compliments from the people at Target and the co-signing from their mother about how cute they both were, another conversation needed to take place. They needed to know that although it’s nice of people to say, their self-worth goes beyond how cute they are. They needed to know that they are wonderful BEFORE they hear compliments from others. I wanted them to understand that life is more than how cute or adorable they are. It’s about what’s on the inside…their hearts and how they treat others and themselves.
Speak Up to Family As Well
It’s human nature to be drawn to certain family members but it doesn’t mean you don’t love the others. However, if you are sure a family member is consistently favoring one child over another it’s time to have a conversation. Explain how it makes everyone feel and changes you would like to see. If the favoritism continues and is taking a toll on your family, consider if exposing your child to that kind of treatment is worth the relationship. Watching a family member favor another can be even more painful because it’s a consistent action coming from a loved one. It is our responsibility to protect our children’s emotional health and not even family is worth the emotional distress that can stem from enduring that type of treatment.
If You’ve Been Choosing a Favorite, It’s Not Too Late to Fix It
If you feel that you may have a role in perpetuating favoritism with how you relate to your own children, it’s not too late to fix it. Begin by making a conscious effort to treat your kids fairly. Do your best to give them what they need based on their own unique personality and make it clear to all the children why you do so, should you be questioned about it. Focus on the part of your child that you resonate with and let that be your focus.
Let them overhear you speaking on their good qualities, be genuine but don’t go overboard. Give extra hugs. Foster their self-esteem so that they are secure within themselves. Not only will your relationship with them flourish, but the relationships they have with their siblings will become stronger as well and everyone wins!