From U.S. News
If you have more than one child, be prepared to hear – if you haven’t already – “You like him better than me” or “How come she always goes with you?” and “She’s your favorite” or “It’s not fair.” Like many parents, you may insist that the complainer is wrong – that your affection for your children is balanced and equitable.
But no matter how hard a parent tries to treat each child the same, your children will likely have a different perception. The slightest gesture toward one child will elicit cries of partiality from another. In children’s minds, you play favorites. And, in one sense, the children would be correct.
It is nearly impossible to treat siblings exactly the same. One is older or younger and rules such as bedtimes or regarding going to the movies with friends need to be age-appropriate. Ability, personality and temperament are all factors influencing your day-to-day interactions with each child, and factor into who gets, or is given, certain privileges. A child with a learning issue or disability or behavioral problem may require more of your time. Any one of these realities may cause a child to balk and remind you that you favor his or her sister or brother.
[Read: Understanding and Managing Sibling Rivalry.]
Researchers at the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois found that meeting the needs of one of your children is far more acceptable to the other children if they perceive the extra attention as fair. The study of the perception of fairness published in the Journal of Family Psychology suggests that if you explain why you spend extra time with John on his math assignment or why you take Kimberly to buy a new outfit (justifying, “He needs the extra help,” or “She’s going to a special event”), your other children are more likely to view the “special treatment” as fair.
The study also reveals that when children understand why a sibling gets extra time with you or something else to meet that child’s needs, the other children are less likely to have negative feelings about their parents.
Cynthia Klein’s comments on this article.
I particularly appreciated this article from Susan Newman because it points out the importance of communicating honesty in the family. When children aren’t told what is really happening in terms they can understand, then they make their own conclusions using their immature brain. It will probably be an incorrect assumption. Another point is that when children “feel” there is unfair treatment, there probably is. It’s better to acknowledge and accept their feelings rather than defending yourself and telling them that you love all of them equally which doesn’t take away their feelings of unfairness. Instead, have a problem-solving discussion with the child who feels unfavored to see what actions can be done to remedy this situation, or at least help resolve the feelings of unfairness.
2017 Cynthia Klein, Bridges 2 Understanding, has been a Family Success Coach since 1994. She works with parents and organizations who want more cooperation, mutual respect and understanding between adults and children. Cynthia presents her expertise through speaking, private parenting coaching sessions, and her book, Ally Parenting: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Transform Conflict Into Cooperation. She works with parents of 5 – 25 year-old children.
To learn how Cynthia can help you solve your specific challenges, contact Cynthia at bridges2understa.wpstagecoach.com, [email protected], or 650. 679.8138 to have a complementary 45-minute discovery session. Why keep suffering? It’s time to change!