Even when pressed, most parents will not reveal which, if any, of their child qualifies as the favorite. “We love all of them equally and without bias,” most parents would claim, and I would guess for about 50% this is absolutely true. For the other 50%, it is hidden shame they hold close to their chest – never to be revealed in fear of the whole familial apparatus falling to pieces. Obviously these percentage estimates are just conjecture, but this notion of mommy or daddy’s favorite is hardly a myth (ask any middle-child) and countless children are either exalted or passed over. Even for the lucky few that are the chosen favorites, besides being venerated beyond judgment, are also the target of their sibling’s understandable resentment – in essence, no one really wins.
The Huffington Post recently floated the idea of parental favorites in a recent posting to their website. Rather than a firm wagging of the finger at parents who admittedly favor one child over the other(s), the article claims that, because the wide range of dynamics between children and their parents, that it is only natural for a parent to favor one child over another. “We all have our preferences and proclivities. We’re human, and we’re drawn to some people more than others and it’s not a horrible thing,” said Dr. Martha Edwards, director of the Ackerman Institute’s Center for the Developing Child and Family. That said, the incidence of favoritism is no less problematic, as issues will arise when parents don’t actively deal with their favoritism and children pick up on it. “Kids have an overwhelming sense of justice and they’re aware when things are unjust,” said Karl Pillemer, a sociologist at Cornell University who has studied favoritism extensively. “I’m doing interviews with hundreds of people, 70 and older, and one of the most emotional things for them after 70 or 80 years are memories of parental favoritism,” he added. “For people who feel that there was great differential treatment in their family, it does have lasting effects.”
There are as many reasons a child is favored, as there are reasons for children to resent their parents. Some children are favored because they are the first born, some are favored because they are the youngest, some are favored because they are well behaved, whereas some are favored distinctly because they have the most severe behavior problems of the brood. The fact is favoritism is one of those things that cannot be artfully avoided, but can be dealt with some sense of sensitivity and decorum. Experts say talk to your pediatrician or a counselor of some sort for advice on how to deal with favoritism, or the implication of favoritism, and try to be as gracious and honest with yourself, your partner, and your children about the issue. Have you dealt with the issue of favoritism in your family? If so, was it dealt with successfully or ham-fistedly? Have you been the favorite or runner up? If so, what advice would you have for other children in similar positions?