The trouble with favourites

The trouble with favourites

By Anonymous

Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles… Anyhoo you get the point, courtesy of the Sound of Music it’s apparent we all have favourite things, but does that and should that extend to your children?

Well for every nine of you out there who tut loudly and adamantly state “absolutely not”, apparently one person reading this will admit they do indeed have a favourite child.

It begs the question, is having a favourite such a big deal and if so, what are the potential impacts?

A few favourite stat’s

According to a UK study one in 10 parents put up their hand to admit they have a favourite child. And the reality is that statistic is probably much higher because other parents are reticent to acknowledge their favouritism, and some may not even know they’re doing it.

When it comes to who in a family that favourite is likely to be, the study goes on to note most often it’s the youngest (53 per cent of parents), followed by the eldest at 25 per cent, while the middle child does indeed have cause for that stereotypical resentment because only 18 per cent of parents favour them.

In the gender stakes, girls are slightly more favoured than boys, with 51 per cent of parents noting they favour their daughters, while 46 per cent favour their sons.

Meanwhile, Australian research published way back in 2008 reveals even if parents don’t admit to playing favourites, there’s a good chance they inadvertently are.

The study found 69 per cent of siblings can readily identify a favourite child within their family and even more (80 per cent) can instantly point their finger at the ‘black sheep’.

The psychology behind it

Experts note families are much like any social group, and within any group some personalities have more in common and get on better than others.

That doesn’t necessarily mean parents love a specific child more or less, it just means they may find a few personality traits in a child easier to relate to.

Children also go through phases in their life and at times may be closer to one or both parents than at others.

All this is pretty normal stuff, but when parents start actively playing favourites and treating their children differently, that’s when things get nasty.

The impacts

The perception of being treated differently to your siblings can last long into adulthood with the impacts for both the favoured and non-favoured child shaping who they are.

For example, the favoured child may grow up with increased confidence, but that can also be tinged with a sense of entitlement and disappointment that the world doesn’t deliver what they rightfully deserve as the chosen one.

Experts suggest they may also struggle with intimate relationships because no-one can possibly love them as much as their parents.

Meanwhile, for the non-favourite child, there might be a sense of less pressure. They are free to experience life as they please because they’re not required to maintain the favourite status.

On the more negative end of the spectrum, they may also grow up with low self-esteem in the knowledge they were never good enough to truly draw their parents’ attention.

Either way, however, it is the relationship between the siblings that can pay the ultimate price. Long into adulthood the perception of unequal treatment lingers, often resulting in strained or permanently damaged family relations.

Playing by the rules

While parents may get on with one of their children better than the others, parenting expert Michael Grose told the Huffington Post avoiding the stigmatism of favouritism is all about establishing rules that apply to all siblings equally.

That means there shouldn’t be one rule for one child and another for the others. It’s when children feel they are actively disadvantaged or advantaged by favouritism that the resentment begins to take hold.

What’s your perspective on favourites?

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