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Akpo Uyeh: Is it Impossible for Parents to Love their Kids Equally?

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Do parents actually show favoritism to a particular child? Psychologists claim that parents show favouritism… particularly if the child has special needs, or to new born babies or children of the same gender. According to them, disfavoured children suffer more depression, show greater aggressiveness, have low self-esteem and are poor academically.

Well, child favouritism can be traced to Biblical days. Recalling the story of Jacob and Esau: Jacob was more loved than his brother, Esau by his mother. It cost Esau’s birthright.
Another example is that of Joseph, who was also more loved than all his brothers by his father. This made his brothers envious of him and sold him to slavery. Thankfully, the story ended well because it all turned out for Joseph’s good.

During a lunch break at the workplace, a colleague was complaining of one of her children whom she said was a pain in the neck. She said that she preferred her other child, because of his behaviour. So I asked whether it is impossible for parents to not have favourites?

The responses got me thinking.

A colleague had said that it is impossible to love all one’s children equally. She used herself as an example. She had six girls and was seriously praying to have a boy and thankfully, the seventh was a boy. According to her, she treats her only and last born son especially as a king, and this kind of agitates his sisters – who feel like they are not as precious as the boy. Would we blame her? In some cultures, a woman is not considered to have had children unless has a male child.

Another colleague seconded the motion and chipped in that out of his two children who are twins, he also prefers the younger one, because she was more outspoken, funny, and a problem solver. He gave instances of when he had issues with his mobile phone and the younger one was quick to proffer solutions. He also added that the younger one had taught him about social media and how to upload apps on her phone. It was not like he did not love the elder one, it was just that he naturally bonded with the younger one more.

Personally, I think showing favouritism  starts when parents start making a comparison between the siblings. Take, for example, a mother complaining about one of her daughters (that she is careless and lacks good judgement) to another daughter whom she considers careful and prudent. If the scolding becomes constant, the daughter who is at the receiving end might start to feel she less loved and unable live up to her mother’s expectation. She might secretly harbour hate for the other sister, who appears to be perfect and wanted.

I had grown thinking that I was the least loved. Don’t get me wrong, it is not liked my parents didn’t love me, but I just thought they loved my siblings more. So when the colleague at work, who had twin boys, said he loved one twin than the other, I was surprised. He replied that it is impossible for a parent to love their children equally.
According to him, one twin was more creative, jovial and intelligent but the other appeared laid-back and less creative. He also revealed that child favouritism could also be influenced by the birth experiences/circumstances surrounding that child.

After Sunday service somewhere around the children’s church, Gertrude, a teenager, got my attention. She was moping by the corner and I was compelled to ask her what went wrong. According to her, she has been having issues with her mom lately. So what happened exactly? That was my first impulse. She said that she is not just good enough and she was doubting if she would be able to live up to her mother’s expectation. I had to probe further by asking her why she thought so. Gertrude has concluded that her mother preferred her elder sister to herself. She felt it was because her elder sister was prettier, more intelligent and carbon-copy of her mum in terms of looks and character.

Knowing that I had travelled that road before, I told her that I could relate to her story. In fact, I told her that at some point in my life I had felt that way before. Instantly, her face lit up. So I went further telling her how I was able to control the situations by getting rid of negative emotions such as hate, envy, low self-esteem and sibling rivalry.

The best way, I think, to get over such was to see the ‘alleged favouritism and comparison’ as a motivating factor to be better than one is.

I also added that most times one might see oneself as the least loved, but truth is: parental love cannot be substituted with an outsider.

Another approach would be to engage her mother or father in dialogue where she can state instances where they showed favouritism and appeared unfair to her so that they become fully aware and do the needful.Bear in mind that everyone is unique – even identical twins – so people tend to relate to each person differently. This would ease the negative emotions steaming from favouritism. That being said, parents should also strive to not appear like they favour a particular child over the other… no matter what.

Photo Credit: Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime

10 Comments

  1. iyke

    September 8, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Didn’t read the article – busy day at work. Just responding quickly based of the headline!
    By being loved equally, you mean investment??… as in time, money, energy, and any other resources that a parent can give to a child?
    Well, it depends on factors like the gender, neediness of the child, birth order and a host of other things.But based on my experience and using the birth order as a case measurement, parents’ love are rarely shared equally.…….most first seeds get more of the love, attention and even resources. Lol
    And on average, the last born gets more of the parents money while the middle ones tend to be the ones that never really get any sort of emotional attachment from their parents. (sad)
    Think about it, as a first child, your parents give you all the attention and resources prior to when the second child arrives. It is hard for a parent to begin to fairly share the amount of time and resources to both kids…of course you as a parent may not agree with me but that is the truth.

  2. MrsO

    September 8, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Every parent has his/her favourite child.. its just human nature unfortunately.

  3. Ada_ugo

    September 8, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    tldr, sorry… using my siblings and myself as an example, I used to believe the favourite was my eldest bro, and everything he did seemed just perfect. Till I grew older and realised that some things stood out about him, hence those things were highlighted. And other things stood out in different ways with my other siblings and myself, hence those things were highlighted too, etc. So I have learnt that good parenting is in identifying the differences between your children, understanding each one, and then personalising your love for that one.

    So in a nutshell, I believe that parents can love all their children, and “equal” is not quite the word I would use, but rather, in a way that is unique to each child .

  4. Iya ibeji

    September 8, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    As a mother of twin girls, i say its possible. People accuse me of loving one more than the other but its not true. every child is treated based on their needs. One of the twins came out smaller than the other, so obviously got more attention. The other has a more bubbly personality and doesn’t have a problem warming up to people while her sister over thinks things and is cautious, often needs a push to try new things and people. Obviously I’m more on the one I see getting in her head, trying to build her confidence so it may seem like I prefer her but I’m sharing the attention based on needs. Who needs it most at a particular time?

  5. Asa

    September 8, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    Let my brothers not see this post o! They will have lots to say. I have 6 brothers and they all agree the first two were treated like Kings while the others were just raised normally. Me on the other hand had my Father’s love as an only girl, I was not sure of my mother’s love though. I don’t believe she cared special for me until I grew up.

  6. A

    September 8, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Well my mum loves my younger sis than me,it was so obvious when we were younger. At a point,I told my father she isn’t my mum,he did his best to make me see my mistake. Anyways,I learnt how to need nobody and I still wish all parents could love all their kids equally

  7. Liz

    September 8, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    “According to them, disfavoured children suffer more depression” every thing & anything causes depression these days.
    “Well, child favouritism can be traced to Biblical days. Recalling the story of Jacob and Esau: Jacob was more loved than his brother, Esau by his mother. It cost Esau’s birthright.
    Another example is that of Joseph, who was also more loved than all his brothers by his father. This made his brothers envious of him and sold him to slavery. Thankfully, the story ended well because it all turned out for Joseph’s good.” Esau’s giving away his birthright has nothing to do with parental love or lack of it.
    Not all of Joseph’s half brothers agreed with their evil plot. This is more of teen rivalry turned vicious due heavily to Joseph self-elevating dreams than paternal preference. With the exit of Joseph from the family, Benjamin became the favoured son; still there was no record of such deep jealousy toward him.

  8. Me

    September 8, 2017 at 5:41 pm

    This is how some parents mess their kids up without realising it. No problem keep choosing favourites; when the kids grow up they will choose their favourite parent and treat you the way you treated them. Bottom line is be careful no one knows tomorrow.

  9. Omolola

    September 9, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    I really love my daughters but I just can’t explain why I have a soft spot for my younger daughter probably because of my birth experience with her. I shiver and I am really thankful to God anytime I remember and again she is always smiling and melt your heart with her smile.

  10. bea

    September 11, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    I have a daughter and a son and though i love them both I think I have a soft spot for the girl.
    Why?

    1. She is more socially in-tuned e.g she says you look beautiful, i will miss you, i love you, i love you too, how are you, how was your dinner party, if you sit away from them she will be the one to come and look for you despite the cartoon addiction

    2. She shows more understanding: if you buy something for the brother alone she will not be angry, worst case scenario is she will say when will you buy my own? or you will buy my own too o but most times she cant be bothered.

    3. she is less demanding so when ever she asks you will simply want to buy for her.

    4. she is more intellectually active: she leads her class, can play piano, she can dance ballet, she can dance, she can sing, she is eager about things whether new or old activities she will show interest while the brother is almost the exact opposite

    naturally I just find myself being so drawn to her but sometimes feel so guilty about it. I am currently making a conscious effort to teach my son these things too.

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