The subject of parental favoritism has been trending lately, with several think pieces popping up during the last several months on the topic.
While many parents are often quick to declare they don’t really have a well liked, several kids — and adult siblings — may beg to differ.
In reality, the consequence parental favoritism may have on kids, whether real or perceived, is just a topic that’s been of growing concern.
Research has unearthed that the consequence isn’t great, showing that children who perceive themselves to be the smallest amount of favorite are prone to do drugs and use alcohol and cigarettes in their teenage years.
This really is particularly so when the family unit isn’t otherwise very close.
And tension between siblings seems to boost whenever a favored child is in the mix.
Parents are often surprised to learn that perception appears to carry a better weight than reality in this case.
Quite simply, it doesn’t matter so much if Mom or Dad actually have a favorite. All that actually counts is if a kid thinks they do.
Let’s be honest…
According to Michele Levin, family therapist and co-owner of Blueprint Mental Health, “It can be very common for a parent to ‘like’or ‘vibe better’with one sibling much more compared to others.”
She’s not suggesting you go out and buy T-shirts to advertise your favorite child, but she thinks it’s important for parents to know and recognize how those preferences can occur.
She explained that kids all have different personalities, interests, needs, and means of expressing their needs.
Kids dealing with other struggles, such as for instance depression or anxiety, can occasionally exhibit challenging behavior that makes them not as easy to be around as their siblings are.
So it’s not at all times an incident a parent loves one child more compared to other. It might be this one child is easier to parent and be around than another is.
“Often another sibling simply doesn’t have the same needs or struggles, or can become the peacemaker, which can lead to a perceived feeling of favoritism,” Levin said.
Then there’s the case of children with medical concerns.
Levin explained that these kids can occasionally require lots of a parent’s time and energy. They may not be the favourite, but to the siblings who aren’t getting just as much time and attention, the resentment can be very real.
Sometimes it’s as simple as shared interests.
“A father who’s interested in sports will likely relate simpler to a kid who’s also into sports, as opposed to a kid who prefers the indoors and video games, for example,” Levin explained.
“These dynamics could possibly get very complicated,” she said.
The negative effects
The thing is a perception to be the smallest amount of favorite child can have a definite hit on a kid’s self-esteem, Dr. Shelly Vaziri Flais, pediatrician and mother of four explained.
“Something we have to be very conscious of as parents is not to compare siblings,” she said. “As a mother of twins, it’s something I need to be extra cautious of. We try very difficult in order to avoid labels like ‘the smart one’or ‘the athletic one.’ If you’re not the favored child, the concern may be that you’ve been pigeonholed while the more challenging child.”
She added, “I believe kids who get the sense that they’re less favored are prone to act out, especially because they enter their teens. Having strong self-esteem in those years is indeed important, and should they already think of themselves while the bad kid, it could prove poorly.”
Levin agreed, adding, “It can certainly impact their self-esteem and how they think of their family, especially at family events and holidays.”
While she explained that everyone is different in how they might handle the perception to be the smallest amount of favorite, she pointed out that it “carry into adulthood unless they’re acknowledged and really talked about.”