Parents, do you ever pick a favourite child? Experts say it can hurt siblings

It’s a truth some parents may not want to admit, but at some point, some experts suggests parents do have a “favourite” child.

While it may not be the type of “favourite” a kid has when they choose a parent, sometimes parents give more attention to one child compared to the other.

According to a poll by British parenting site Mumsnet in 2018, 23 per cent of parents said they “favoured” one child more than the other, often the new baby, New York Post reported.

The poll, which looked at data of 1,000 people, found parents were more likely to favour the youngest child. About a quarter said they favoured the eldest child, while middle children came in last place. Most respondents (64 per cent), on the other hand, said they had no favourite child.

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Dr. Barbara Howard, a developmental behavioural pediatrician, previously told the New York Times there can be behavioural problems for the child who doesn’t feel like they are the “favourite.”

“It’s impossible not to have favorites, and we do know that the perception of favouritism is one of the biggest factors in sibling rivalry,” she told the site.

“Often the child is trying to get the attention of the parent who is rejecting them — the more you push a kid away, the more he will come at you.”

And when the child becomes needy or seeks too much attention, she said, the parent doesn’t respond well.

“Often the parent doesn’t like the kid that much, or the kid perceives it.”

Is it really favouritism?

Maureen Dennis, a parenting and lifestyle expert based in Toronto, told Global News that sometimes one child needs more attention than the other, but this isn’t favouritsim.

“There could be any number of reasons why that child needs a little more attention,” she explained. “They may have a medical reason, they may be going through something, or they just might be the kind of kid who needs a little more support in life.”
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Sometimes, parents relate more to one child than the other.
“If you love playing hockey and one of your kids also loves playing hockey, it’s natural to be excited to share that together,” she said. “But it can also make it hard for another sibling that doesn’t enjoy the same things as you but still wants to have the same opportunities for your attention.”
She added it’s not that the parent loves the hockey player any more than the other child — they’re just easier to relate to.WATCH: Challenges of parenting highly sensitive kids (April 2)
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“It could also be more about personalities. You might have one child that is very outgoing and doesn’t need as much of your attention and another child who is more dependent on you in certain situations,” she continued. “The greatest and hardest things about kids is that they are all different and just when you feel like you’ve figured them out, they surprise you.”

Dennis said parents also have their own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to giving attention.

“We have to go beyond our own feelings to figure out how to relate to each child and to understand why they are either seeking more attention or why they are complaining they are not getting enough attention.”
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The risks of having favourites

Often, when parents show favour for one child over an another — intentionally or not — there could be a risk of ruining your relationship with your child.“It takes time and patience as a parent to understand your own kids and to find the time to truly enjoy what they enjoy,” she said. “Playing Barbies, watching football, bird watching, playing basketball or practicing ballet might not be your thing, but you need to make yourself available to them and share in their interests.”Another risk is creating sibling rivalry and jealousy.“Some siblings get along better than others, but it is pretty hard to keep every thing ‘even and fair’ all the time in daily family life,” she said.READ MORE: ‘I have no regrets’: What it’s like to be estranged from family“If a child needs some additional attention and the other child is feeling left out or jealous, that is the time to have a conversation about why they are feeling that way and what they both need at that moment. It can also be as simple as explaining that everything doesn’t need to be fair in the moment but over time we each get special time and moments together.”And if your child does call you out on your picking a favourite, rework how you spend time with them.“One of the best ways of making sure you are on top this is to spend time with each child one-on-one,” she said. “Have conversations, laugh and enjoy each other, make memories — this is really important to start when they are young.”

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