Yes, we are all aware that at any given moment we have a favorite child. And, any parent who denies this is likely trying to be sensitive and kind. What we need to keep in mind, though, is that as long as we are not making it obvious to our kids who our current favorite is then there is no harm here. In fact, it is perfectly natural at different stages and ages to find one child easier to get along with than another. And, yes, we tend to favor the child who we understand better and who is more temperamentally matched to us. So, I encourage all parents to breathe a sigh of relief and let go of some guilt if you secretly have a favorite.
Despite having a favorite, you may want your behavior to be guided by the following guiding principles:
1. Acknowledge your feelings to yourself but obviously not to your children.
2. Do not compare your children to each other unless you want them to harbor resentment toward one another. I doubt that any loving parent has this as a goal.
3. Examine your behavior toward each child and make sure that you are celebrating their unique differences.
4. Check in with your partner and get some feedback about whether or not you are giving each child equal levels of love and attention.
5. If you are finding one child difficult to like, figure out why and work on repairing this dynamic because it is likely a problem for the child in other arenas of his/her life as well.
Most of all, recognize that even though you are a parent, you are human and fallible and may make errors. The important thing is to engage in some self-monitoring and make sure that you are doing the best that you can for each child. And, remember that the journey with each child will hopefully be a long one with the dynamics of your interactions changing during the parent-child dance.
Barbara is a PhD clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of adolescents and their well-intentioned but exhausted parents. She is the co-author of Teenage as a Second Language-A Parents Guide to Becoming Bilingual with Jennifer Powell-Lunder PsyD and the co-creator of the website http://www.talkingteenage.com.
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