Do You Have a Favorite Child? - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Do You Have a Favorite Child?

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Time magazine ran an interesting article andit stated that having a favorite child is hard wired into us. For genetic survivalit goes on to say the firstborn and the youngest are usually favored fordifferent reasons. The firstborn is better fed, and since they are the first,they spend more time with mom and dad and are the prodigy of the parents. Thebaby is protected. Moms especially attach more to the youngest, while dads havea tendency to attach to the eldest. Where does that leave all the other kids inbetween?

Adults who grow up being the un-favored childsuffer. Sometimes they understand and find their specialness within the family,but for those who don't, they may grow up feeling less than, ostracized andstruggle with more conflict within their family of origin. Clients I see whowere not the favored child and whose parents openly favored one of theirsiblings struggle with leftover resentment and rebellion, not only at theirparents, but at their siblings as well.

When I ask couples if they have a favoritechild, the majority of them will say no. This occurs even though some child intheir family feels that mom and dad like one of their siblings better. Thechild can give numerous accounts of when they felt left out or did not feel asimportant as their siblings, but the parents will usually deny the allegationand remark that their child is not remembering the situation or incidentcorrectly. They may say things such as, "You're too sensitive, or you're notremembering the times you did get special attention." However, when a siblingis not favored it is more than a couple of unfortunate situations. It is afeeling and they are usually correct in their assessment.

CNN's Anderson Cooper talked about theconsequences of parents who favor one child over another. He asked parents toconsider these five questions and to answer them honestly to determine if theyhad a favorite child.

1) Do you have more photos of one child thanyou do of the others?

2) Are you more involved with one child'sextra-curricular activities?

3) Did you spend the same amount of money oneach child's birthday or Christmas gifts?

4) Do you contribute the same to each child'scollege funds?

5) Do you find one child much easier to bearound than the others?

Parents who do have favorite children or useone of their children to motivate their other children end up with children whofeel less than. Below are four possible negative effects the un-favored childmay feel.

  1. Negativeself-image.  If a child grows up beingyelled at or put down, they develop a fragile self-esteem. This may lead toaggression in later life. These children grow up to be adults with peer andinterpersonal problems.
  2. Developmentaldelays. If one of the children is labeled as less than, they may not get thefocus they need to help with learning. When parents don't give their childrenthe attention they need they may grow up with learning disabilities that affecttheir ability for employment and career options. This affects their ability tosocialize as well and maintain friendships.
  3. Depression. Kids that don't feel valued or importantto their parents suffer depression and anxiety, which follows them intoadulthood. When you grow up feeling belittled, rejected or insignificant youturn into an adult with the same feelings.
  4. The un-favoredchild will usually be more risk taking as well. Kids who don't get attentionfind other ways to act out their feelings they cannot express. If you don'tfeel valued, you have nothing to lose. Risky behavior becomes an option.
  5. Childrengrowing up feeling as though mom and dad have favorites also have complicatedrelationships with their siblings. Jealousy, resentment and anger don't go away.An adult in their seventies who continues to fight with their siblings can tellyou who the favorite children were.  

Parenting is tough, and every parent I knowstruggles with having enough time for their work, their partner and theirchildren. Taking time with each child atleast once a week is a wonderful way to make kids feel special. When kids havespecial interests engage with their interest, even if you aren't interested init. Focusing on what makes each of your children special, and never comparingyour children, will help ensure your kids grow up feeling loved by you and eachother. –Mary Jo Rapini


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