Does favoritism exist? Does it matter? If children feel that a parent has a favorite that’s all that matters really. Remember perception is everything, and is the truth for the person or child perceiving it. It turns out that what matters most is not whether there is a favorite — it’s whether the kid thinks there is. “And that’s the scary part,” according to Alex Jensen, a psychologist with Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, who studies family relationships. “It’s not just how you’re treating them; it’s how they perceive it.”
I recently heard a piece on NPR dealing with this issue, and it really didn’t hold anything new in it from my perspective. Of course if you think there is a favorite in the family, and it isn’t you you hate it! When I was growing up my perception was just the opposite: my mom didn’t care for any of us equally. She was rather a cold person, and very self-absorbed so after you achieve the ripe old age of 5 she really didn’t like you much. I think that was due to you finding your own voice that may be different then hers (who knows). I found this to be true with her grandchildren too (I digress into bitterness I’m sorry).
According to studies if a child perceives that there is a favorite in the family they will begin to engage in behavior that will get them into trouble. “They were more likely to drink alcohol…, to have used cigarettes,” Jensen says. And the teens were also more likely to have smoked marijuana or used harder drugs. “So it’s linked to some pretty serious stuff.”
I guess as a parent you should check in with your kids to see if they perceive that there is a favorite. If the child thinks there is a favorite child ask them what they think you could do to help them feel that you don’t have a favorite. OR possibly tell them that yes you do have favorites but sometimes it is them and other times it is their sibling, and make a list of what makes them a favorite to you. I know this sounds bizarre but here’s a statistic: The vast majority of parents do have [a] favorite child, according to research — about 80 percent. So be honest with yourself and your children because they’ll figure it out and ultimately grow to distrust you.
To quote David Lewis, who’s 10, [he’s] pretty sure there’s a favorite in his family. He just isn’t sure who it is. “It’s either my older brother, who actually does things correctly, though he might mess up here or there, or me, because I’m awesome.” His older sister gets to be the favorite sometimes, too. This is really good confusion; keep them guessing as to your favorite because if they think it’s interchangeable they may feel okay as long as they feel that they’re in the rotation.