Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Do Parents Have Favorites?

Short answer:yes,they do.The October 3,2011 issue of Time magazine features a cover story with a review of Jeffrey Kluger's new book,"The Sibling Effect: What the Bonds Among Brothers and Sisters Reveal About Us"(Riverhead Books,2011)

Did you always suspect that Mom liked your sister better? Could you tell you were the apple of Dad's eye? You might be right! Children can tell that not all siblings were created equal.Parents sometimes give differential treatment to siblings for a variety of reasons:gender,birth order,attractiveness,intelligence, or one child's special emotional/physical/educational needs.A parent may identify more with one child,who may be a better personality style fit,bear a physical resemblance,share the same birth order as the parent did in their family growing up,or a host of other reasons.

Siblings jockey for position as "best" child,often looking for their own unique area to prove mastery and show off success to parents.This can continue throughout the life cycle,and can cause great heartache to parents and children both.Parents can help by encouaging different areas of mastery,and celebrating when their children succeed in their own way.I often tell families that a certain amount of competitiveness between siblings is both normal,and helps develop assertiveness.Parents also need to communicate their belief that there is room for two or three(or however many children there are in the family) good children in the family.Care in avoiding labeling the children is also key."Meet Justin,he's our brainy child!" Does that mean noone else can suceed on his turf?parents need to be aware what power there stated perceptions have about their children.Children think we are powerful and know everything,until they become teens and realize we don't.

Experts see that there are emotional costs to being singled out as special by Mom and Dad.Fovorite children may feel guilty,feel pressured,or suffer with poor relationships with their siblings.Nobody likes the class pet, not even at home in the family.

When parents do have to spend more time or emotional energy---for instance with a child who is physically disabled or who has anxiety or depression,researchers suggest parents explain the reason for the imbalance briefly and honestly.It's their family,too,and you can bet your children are already aware of it.

Their may be biological underpinnings in why siblings compete for limited attention and resources.Geges are selfish,and each child wants to get what he or she needs. It is pretty much impossible not to have some competitive themes in any family for parents' approval,and later in work situations for managements' approval.

Parents should make every effort not to show or admit favoritism.Good enough parents do their best to see that each child gets what they need,and that they are each seen as multi-dimensional individuals,with unique gifts.They are not to be compared to each other or anyone else.The angst of sibling rivalry generally fades over the family life cycle.

I can think of no better life outcome than leaving adult children who are close, love and accept each other.I hertily recommend this weeks' Time magazine article and/or Kluger's book to you.As for me? I have three favorite children I love dearly.

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