Do You Have a Favorite Child? (1)
By: Beth McHugh 2009
Of course we love all our children the same. Or do we? When we are asked this question by our children we usually give the standard stock answer: “I love you all the same”.
But the truth is parents often favor one child over another. If it is a barely discernible preference, the parent may be able to conceal it reasonably successfully and no major harm is done, especially if the preference involves only a short space of time. However, when the favoritism is consistent and blatantly obvious and continues for years, parental favoritism can one of the most harmful effects a parent can inflict on a child. And one that can last a lifetime.
Dawn is 88 years old. She has a sister who is just one year older than her, so as children they competed strongly for the love of their mother who was their primary caregiver s their father was often away at sea. Dawn felt herself to be second best to her sister Ellie, so much so that even in her 40s she was telling her own children that her mother always offered the choice of two candies to her sister Ellie first, and she got whatever Ellie didn’t want. Dawn claimed this favoritism went on constantly. Whether it did or not, the times that it did so impinged on Dawn’s mind so much that even at 88, with her mother long dead, she is still in competition with her nearly 90 year old sister.
This behavior on the part of the mother, together with the usual “hand-me-down” process of clothing distribution among growing siblings served to warp Dawn’s behavior to the point where she could not help but see favoritism in her everyday life, no matter how many decades down the track.
On one occasion her husband decided to put three new power points in their home and called the electrician. But he also called his daughter to see if she would like some extra power points too and they decided together that she needed four new ones. When Dawn found out that her daughter was getting four and she was getting three her rage was almost uncontrollable and she shouted at her husband that she was getting only three when “she” was getting four. Her stunned husband didn’t know what was driving his wife’s anger, but her childhood feelings of not getting enough and being second best were still alive and well and no, in this case, directed at her daughter. This is the type of example where a childhood where one is made to feel inferior and “not good enough” can have long lasting and harmful repercussions. In this case, the daughter was offended and the husband and wife argued for several days, simply because a father wanted to give loving gift to his daughter.
Next article, we’ll look at the research behind the myth of loving all our children equally.