Tommy was two years older than Dick. Tommy played guitar and Dick, the string bass. Tommy acted as the "slower", more confused and frankly, funnier brother to Dick's up-tight, responsible persona. When Tommy was "stuck" for something to say, he'd blurt out in frustration, "Mom always liked you best".
They were taken off the air for their opposition to the war in Vietnam and because they supported the "counterculture" of peace. Censored. There's nothing new...only surprises.
If you think you don't have a Favorite Child, just ask your kids. They know who it is. This awareness of "where" kids stand in the family is the biggest factor in sibling rivalry.
The UnFavorite Child is the one who perceives rejection or a "less than" status is likely to be aggressive (is this a pre-emptive strike?), is likely to be clingy, is likely to behave in a needy fashion and the most challenging of all, is likely to be overly attention seeking. Ugh.
Apparently, most families have a "shifting favoritism". I'm suspicious that shifting favoritism is related to multiple factors including:
- the kid's developmental age (tweenagers and teenagers are more challenging)
- family dynamics
- the nature of your own stressors, health, coping skills, expectations, tolerance and preferences (as parents)
- child's gender
- the child reminds you of someone you may not care for...sibling, parent, in-law family
Shifting favoritism generates a healthy competition. Whereas, if favoritism evolves into a persistent dynamic and becomes part of the family's culture, it can cause long-term damage to a kid's sense of worth. Feelings of "not feeling 'good enough'" are expected.
In wealthier families, kids don't notice if someone else gets more attention, "stuff" and privileges because they're likely to have what they need.
When there is financial stress, it can't help but trickle down (or in some cases, flood) and reduce parents' ability to meet the emotional needs of all of their kids.
Coupled with being unable to get what they need and want materially, kids don't get what they need and want in terms of emotional support from their parents. Mom and Dad might even be out of the house much more than usual because they're working several jobs to keep the kids in a home with the necessities of life.
The middle kid is Tuesday in days of the week terms. The "newness" of the week is gone, Wednesday is the mid-point, Thursday comes before Friday and well, there's no explaining why Friday is the Favorite Child. Tuesday, is well, a "place holder".
- You get very defensive when the topic of favoritism comes up. You know you have a favorite, but thinks it's the sign of being a terrible parent and just an all-around awful person.
- When you talk with others like teachers, family friends and just people outside the family, in general, about the UnFavorite Child, your overall language tone and choice of words are different and not in the positive direction.
- Younger kids get away with a lot, but The Favorite Child might get away with a ton more than any other kid.
- You're happier, in general, around The Favorite Child. You have more positive energy, you're not correcting The Favorite Child, you're more relaxed, laughing and smiling. Check yourself.
- You don't have very high hopes for this child. You base your expectations of where this child is in life now versus hoping for a brighter future. Uh oh.
- Be honest. It's OK if you have a favorite, but don't let it go on any longer.
- Think about it. Why is this child such a challenge for you to be "all in", emotionally? Why don't you enjoy this child as much as you do your other(s)?
- Does this child make you feel incompetent or less successful as a parent? What can you do? Does this child have a "hidden disability" such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder or a language processing problem or depression, or an irritable temperament? WHAT IS IT???
- Find something you like about this kid and embrace it. What til you see the change. You'll be "gob-smacked" as my British friends say.
- Get a consultation from a child psychologist, yep, a child psychologist. They're the most appropriate people who explain to you the "why" behind the "what". They can put your UnFavorite Child's behavior in the most appropriate context. If you understand your child better, you'll respond differently.
- Work hard to like this kid a bit more. Loving and liking are two completely different dynamics.
Remember, this kid knows where s/he stands in the family. They don't miss a thing. Adults are lanterns and kids are spotlights.
Don't allow favoritism to change the course of their lives and create adults who are not satisfied with themselves. Now that you know, you can't live with the consequences.
Just do the best you can, Claudia
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