Social Question

Hibernate's avatar

Should parents have favorite kids?

Asked by Hibernate (9019 points ) November 6th, 2011

Favoritism exists in all families. It is normal. No two children are identical and no two parents are identical. Parents have preferences for children of given ages, temperaments, abilities, or interests. What is important is that
• families be honest about the existence of favoritism. When feelings about favoritism are unspoken or denied, the wellbeing of the family is threatened.
• families talk about favoritism, maybe even joke or laugh about its existence. Without language and respectful dialogue, resentments and other discomforts build, emotionally jeopardizing the well being of all family members.
• all children in a family have the experience of being the favorite. When favoritism flows from one child to another, all children can benefit from its potential rewards and no one child is as vulnerable to its potential negative consequences.

[fragment from psychology today]

Do you have something to add here or you find it as not being true?

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15 Answers

mazingerz88's avatar

Should? Never. This form of favoritism would lead to all sorts of ill feelings between siblings and between parents and their kids and the painful damage could last until their very last day on this earth.

bongo's avatar

@mazingerz88 I agree.
I do however, think it is important to recognize the strengths of each child and maybe that could be seen as a “favorite” child for a particular activity, but that would only correspond to a certain ability. I wouldn’t call that favoritism though, just recognizing individual qualities. e.g. If one child does well at school and another doesn’t it wouldn’t result in favoritism, the other child may be amazing at something else even if some parents may not see it, it is important to remember every child is different and it is good for them to not be the same as their parents. Maybe by them being the ‘odd one out’ in the family that can be seen as an attractive trait to many and it is important for parents to remember that.
My parents would never pick favorites between me and my sisters, but they do recognize our individual abilities. I think that’s important but it shouldn’t create competition. Quite the opposite in fact so that children are not competing with each other but working together within their own strengths.

mazingerz88's avatar

@bongo I dread that word “favoritism”. In its most harmful connotation, it means “selective application of more love”. My parents practiced it and with almost deadly results. Though I myself did not pay much attention, I have a sibling who felt betrayed. And he has every right to be because the truth was so painfully obvious.

Parents and their kids have their own unique human skills and personalities, yes, but parents should know that there is no excuse to any behavior on their part that may lead to one of their children feeling deprived. That yes, he is totally different from his other siblings. That while his brother could play the piano, he could only pick his nose.

That’s an exaggeration I know but my point is parents, before, during and after the process of identifying each of their kids strengths and weaknesses should never grade the results by adjusting and calibrating consciously or unconsciously the level of love, attention and especially enthusiasms that they have for each of their kids. Never as in never!

They should applaud their child’s nose picking skills as much the other’s piano playing talent.

bongo's avatar

@mazingerz88 oh yes some good nose picking skills is definitely a trait to be applauded!
I completely agree with what you are saying though. That must have been hard for both of you if your parents felt the need to ‘divide their love’ and create favorites. I feel very lucky that I am viewed in the same way as my other sisters by my parents… but at the same time very differently as we are all different.

john65pennington's avatar

Parents should not have favorite children, but they do.

Sometimes, this is not the fault of the parents. Our son required just about no attention from us. He was a loner and a leader and we knew this. Our daughter was a “leaner”. She leaned on her mother most of her childhood and demanded more attention from her. As you can see, this was through no fault of her parents.

Later in life, our son asked us about this situation. He apparently noticed it as a child and was afraid to ask at that time. So, today, we explained the lean-situation to him. He now knows and thoroughly understands the difference.

They both were treated as equally as our daughter would allow.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

Maybe in their minds, but it should never be made known, ever. Outwardly, they have to do their best to dish out every child with the same amount of love and punishment. That may be difficult to do, but that’s what a good parent does.

sneezedisease's avatar

I don’t believe it exists in all families.

Being honest about favoritism in this case appears to mean telling Timmy you like Sarah better. I think that would hurt a family more than “denying” feelings of favoritism.
Another thing I gather from the second suggestion: In the case of anyone claiming not to have a favorite kid, it can be assumed that they actually do and are denying it. Not cool.

“all children in a family have the experience of being the favorite. When favoritism flows from one child to another, all children can benefit from its potential rewards and no one child is as vulnerable to its potential negative consequences.”

I don’t think that being temporarily happy with certain kids in your family constitutes favoritism.
Honestly, I think this favoritism thing is complete B.S.

mazingerz88's avatar

@MRSHINYSHOES Yes, that’s right. I knew one 65 year old parent who related that amongst his three sons, his favorite was the firstborn. He was able to resist exposing that sentiment though, and raised them without anybody in the family discovering. He said it seemed he pulled it off as the other two sons haven’t raised any issues and they are all college grads now.

The reason why he kept it secret is he himself experienced the pain of not being treated equally by his own parents. His older brother, the good looking successful engineer was the golden child in the brood.

skfinkel's avatar

This is not true—that parents should have favorites. This article seems to me to miss the point of what love is, and respect for individuality. I do not think favoritism exists in all families, nor do I think it is inevitable. I disagree with just about everything that is stated as a part of the question.

Tbag's avatar

I’m all the way with @mazingerz88 and @skfinkel. It does exist in SOME families but not all. But to come to think of it, my mama always gives me the biggest piece of chicken, haha.

snowberry's avatar

Absolutely! I have 5 kids. I tell each of them they are my favorite. They have turned it into a fun competition, because they all know the one closest to me is my favorite. The theme is “Stay close and call often”. If one is sitting on the couch, and the one in Denver calls, my favorite becomes the one in Denver. It’s a fun way to say I love you.

mattbrowne's avatar

Absolutely not ! Having favorite kids is like having a recipe for misery.

lonelydragon's avatar

Parents should not have favorities, but many times, they do. It’s not surprising that parents tend to relate best to the child who is most like them in personality in appearance. At the same time, they should try to behave as impartially as possible towards their children. Displaying obvious favoritism will fracture and ultimately destroy familial relationships.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Well, one is my favorite cook and doctor, one is my favorite shopping and hiking companion, one is my favorite mechanic and entertainer, one is my favorite movie-watching buddy and shooting partner. So each one IS my favorite something.

Nullo's avatar

No. That’s one of the lessons in the story of Jacob and Esau. That favoritism screwed up the entire family.

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