Favoritism is one of those natural parts of life that are hard to avoid yet can be very hurtful. How can you avoid playing favorites with your kids?
It’s not unusual for a parent to have one child that they baby; in fact, usually, it is the baby of the family. Or, parents with several children of one gender and only one child of the opposite gender, may favor the solitary child over the others. There are endless reasons why a parent may favor one child over their others, none of them good. And although you may not be able to help having a favorite, there are some things you can do to ensure it’s never felt.
Try to spend time with each child alone. Consider this as quality time with your child, and be sure to focus on that child alone. Don’t talk about your other children if you can avoid it, make that time all about the child you are spending it with. Try not to focus on the amount of time you spend (although, do try to keep the time frames as consistent among all of the children as you can) as the quality. Spend the time doing things that child enjoys doing and try to really listen to them when they talk.
Keep discipline appropriate and equal. Obviously, the way you punish a 15-year-old is not the same way you would a five-year-old. However, there are ways you can make the discipline equal. For example, you can give the offender an extra chore; the chore would be equivalent to that child’s abilities. Another example, you might take away screen time from the offender.
Be aware of how you praise your children. Do you jump for joy when one child brings home all A’s but only smile when another child shows you their artwork? Maybe you have a higher sense of regard for good grades than you do for creativity. This sort of behavior is noticed by children and does hurt their feelings. Try to be as enthusiastic of any accomplishment your child has because they are individuals and have different strengths and weaknesses which should be recognized and respected in equal measure.
Finally, listen to your children. Children might not always come right out and say that they feel like they are less cared for than their siblings, but they will usually show some sign of feeling mistreated. It might be a snide comment, or it might be that they start withdrawing from you. If you suspect you are guilty of playing favorites, look at your behavior, and self-correct. If you aren’t sure, pull your child to the side and talk to them. Let them know that you love them, try not to defend your actions (even if you don’t agree), and try to make a plan together so that your child will feel less ignored. Once you’ve made a plan, stick to it, and follow up with the slighted child a while later to see how you’re doing.