Monday, October 09, 2006

Do You Have a Favorite Child?

Parents are often devastated to find that one child just seems less lovable to them than the others. They may see one child as “the difficult one” and another as more easygoing. Sometimes children go through phases and don’t necessarily have the same temperament throughout their childhood. One child may behave monstrously at age four, but turn into a much more lovable character at the age of six. That’s why it’s important not to label our kids and assume they’re destined to have the same personality forever. One child may be your (unspoken) favorite right now, but it could be a different story in the teen years. As a parent, try not to be too hard on yourself when you don’t always find yourself liking a child. Often, parents’ feelings of frustration in these situations are directed more at themselves because they don’t like how they respond to the difficult child. They may hate themselves for losing their temper or not being as patient with this child as with the others. This makes it hard to accept this child as he or she is and to appreciate the good qualities. So, think of the difficult child as a gift who will help you become a better, more patient parent. He or she is a challenge who can actually help you grow as a person and learn to cultivate your own good qualities, such as forgiveness and patience. Also, remind yourself that there’s a difference between not loving a person and not loving his or her behavior. You may not like how your child acts sometimes, but if you search your heart, you may find that you do indeed love this little person—in spite of his or her frustrating actions. Sometimes, children act up because they need more personal attention. Try to spend more time alone with the difficult child so he or she isn’t competing for your attention with your other children. Get to know this child as an individual and find out what his or her interests are. Seek out something special about this child that you can admire. When your child is sassy, you might tell yourself, “I was a shy kid, so I really admire how well my child knows his own needs and isn’t afraid to express his opinions.” Think about how these difficult traits might actually be a benefit later in life. The child who is very assertive or has lots of energy may actually find these qualities to be an asset as an adult. Oftentimes, we may relate better to the child who is more like us. One child may remind you of yourself at her age, while another reminds you of your difficult father-in-law. When you’re doing things together, you may naturally gravitate to the child whose interests and temperament are more closely aligned with your own. On the other hand, you might find yourself being less tolerant of this same child’s misbehavior because you notice those personality traits in your child that you dislike in yourself. Nobody likes to have a little mirror walking around, reminding them of their own personality flaws! It’s important to remember that your children didn’t pick their genes and personality, and shouldn’t be punished for them. Again, look for the qualities you do admire and can relate to in all your children. If you still find it tough to have equal affection for all your children, it might be helpful to read some parenting books geared toward helping you raise a difficult child. They could have some great tips for helping you to better understand why your child behaves the way he or she does. With understanding comes acceptance and love. Be sure to let your children know that you admire and love them all as individuals. It’s never right to openly express your favoritism, even though it is natural to feel that way inside. All children are a blessing in that they have a lot to teach you about parenting, life and other people.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my, how topical to my life. I am one of seven and an adult with two children of my own. Growing up my mother made no bones about having favorites. She defended it by explaining that she favored those who needed her the most. Well, it didn't make the rest of us feel any better to be told we didn't make the list. She was once asked the "Sofie's Choice" question and she ANSWERED! She explained that "xyz" would survive, but that "abc" would need her. Ugh.

    What drives me nuts is she is starting to do the same with my daughters. She has declared she has a bond with one of the girls. Luckily the girls don't know, but I fear that the "one less favored" will find out. She is actually the more sensitive.

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