Playing favourites

It’s easy for anyone born with a disability to become the target of their parents’ affections through misplaced guilt. Their targeting isn’t because they favour us over our siblings, it is merely because they have more work to do with us, but unfortunately that’s not always how it will be perceived by our siblings.

In families it has become commonplace for some parents to display consistent favouritism towards one child over another, by giving more affection to that child, spending more time with that child, handing less discipline out, being more affectionate and handing out more privileges.

However, there will always be cases where it is necessary for a parent to favour one child over another. For example, parents must always give more attention to newborns, babies born with a disability and to babies who are sick. Although these circumstances can’t be helped, it’s important parents discuss these challenges with their other children, just to let them know it’s nothing personal.

In families, firstborns tend to get the most privileges, the last-born receives the most parental attention and the middle child gets the least of both and although siblings may not always say they have a problem with this, it becomes fairly obvious further down the line when the cracks begin to show, although I’m not sure when things get to that stage the parents are aware.

Favouritism is also cultural. In certain families, parents will favour boys over girls. Favouritism can also be based around personality. A child’s behaviour very much affects how parents see that child. A parent’s leaning towards one child may be because that child is more affectionate.

A parent tends to direct discipline to the child who acts out or engages in deviant behaviour. What starts off as a conscious thought, where the parent tries to remove him or herself from the child that indulges in deviant behaviour that eventually becomes an unconscious pattern.

Family issues like this aren’t unique, but it’s important parents play fair with all their children. Sadly, when parents don’t, it’s the children who often miss out, because the closeness isn’t there with their parents or with each other.

8 Dec, 2016

6 thoughts on “Playing favourites

  1. As a middle child to an older brother, who excelled at school and a younger much wanted sister; I certainly wasn’t my parents’ favourite and true to form acted out the middle child syndrome perfectly, while being largely left to my own devices.

    I did see favouritism in my extended family on a huge scale and that right the way up to and beyond my grandparents’ death. That cut out a huge rift between the families concerned that will never be healed.

    I suspect most children will argue they weren’t the favourite even when they were!

    1. I think what you describe in families is very common, but I’m not sure how many families will agree it happens, but I’m a firm believer it does.

      Either people genuinely don’t see it or they’re not willing to accept that they have spent a lifetime behaving a certain way, when it’s fairly obvious to others that is exactly how they have behaved.

      Until anyone comes to terms with their behaviour, I suspect you’re right. All younger children will argue they weren’t the favourite, but the facts around first-borns, middle-children and last-borns aren’t going away, as you have proved.

  2. Yes, this does happen at times, even as much as parents try to say differently.

    My mother favored me because I was the baby of the family and I know my other siblings hated me for it. When it comes down to it, I know I may have been spoiled, but there was also a high price to pay, since they so often despised me and it wasn’t what I wanted.

    She expected complete loyalty to her and most often pitted me against my dad and my siblings which really wasn’t fair. People think it’s horrible how I felt about my mother, but they didn’t have to endure her constant passive-aggressive torture, to break my will. She really should have worked for the CIA with how good she was at brainwashing.

    There are obvious exceptions, where parents will be forced to pay more attention to one child over the other, but that’s totally understandable. It’s when a parent or parents make an intentional decision to favour one child over another. I also had to deal with living in my sibling’s shadows with my brother being good in sports and with the ladies along with one of my sister’s being very pretty and popular.

    They still chose to take care of me even when I was horrible to them, which is what I regret the most. I wish I could change things, but that isn’t possible so I have to make the best of what time I do have now.

    My mother has passed and my father is on the way, so they can’t control me anymore. My life is finally starting to feel like my own.

  3. As your case has shown Randy, this is exactly how some families live it, but however your mum parented you all, has nothing to do with you.

    I think that’s where siblings don’t get it. It’s our parents who make the decisions for us and our siblings. It wouldn’t have been up to you to have gone back in to talk to your parents on how they chose to parent you or your siblings.

    I think if more of our siblings understood that, our lives would be easier. Of course the way your parents treat you, wouldn’t have been the way you wanted it, but unless your parents chose to parent you differently, you will have had no choice either.

    You being the scapegoat for your parents’ isn’t right. It’s a shame your siblings don’t think about or understand that. I find it sad because it not only splits siblings, but many families too when siblings take sides.

  4. I’m the middle child, the oldest boy and I’ve been keeping log of the favoritism in my family; it’s the mess that parents make.

    But the genes shift daily, depending upon who needs me or not; like my mother and brother, the unpredictable half.

    1. Thanks Tim. Yes, it is a mess often left by many parents. If the cap fits Tim and you’re obviously the capable one, so your mum and brother rely on you.

      I wonder how much of that is just that it’s easier. No matter how capable you are, I don’t believe anyone is incapable. I think parents tend to go with the easier child and ignore the child that isn’t.

      Although this particular scenario you describe hasn’t happened in my family, I know someone who has experienced exactly the same as you. When parents actively choose to make one child’s life easier and another child’s life more difficult, I believe it’s time to redress the balance.

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