Are You Worried About Playing Favorites?

kolari thumbnail[Originally posted at Just the Facts, Baby]

Some parents find they feel closer to one child than the other, which can cause terrible guilt and a great deal of stress. We can’t choose our children and their different personalities can mesh–or–clash with our own. It’s not easy when we feel an easy love for one child, and a love that takes more work for another.

Sometimes this just has to do with personality–we often get frustrated by the traits in our children that we don’t like in ourselves. Sometimes we react to behaviors and tendencies our children have that remind us of things we don’t like about our spouse, or a relative we have trouble getting along with. And as we react to our children, they often act out in return–often exaggerating the behaviors we dislike the most.

If you find yourself in this situation, there are a few things you can do to protect your relationship with your child and to ensure that things do not become more challenging between you–or to repair the damage if they already have.

• Make sure to spend special connecting time with this child for a few minutes every day.

• Make sure you tell your child what you admire or appreciate about them, taking special note of things they did that were positive that day.

• Make sure to cuddle and be nurturing to them every day. Stroke their cheeks, look into their eyes and make them feel delicious. Do this even if it’s a struggle–it will help the bond and improve behavior.

• Write them little notes to leave in their lunch, or on their bedroom door.

• Use humor and jokes to bond and enjoy one another. Take time to be silly and playful.

• Catch yourself if you spend more time with one child over the other, or if you speak to one child in a gentler way. If they are complaining about it, there may be a reason.

• Be aware of overcompensating (or protecting one child over the other if you notice your spouse favoring one child).

• Find and celebrate the strengths in all your children. Traits that make them a challenge to parent may make them strong and competent adults one day.

• Don’t beat yourself up, just because you are a parent does not mean you are not a human being. It is normal to react to difficult behaviors. And if you do overreact, you can always go back and repair.

Feeling this way does not make you a bad person or a bad parent, it just means you are reacting to a dynamic and that it is important to be aware of that and to be aware of your contribution to that dynamic. If they push you away or reject you, try not to act hurt. Respond in a neutral way and try again later, or try something more subtle, like finding a cute picture of them and talk about how adorable they are in it. Remember every child needs to feel loved and lovable; it is the single most protective thing in terms of good emotional and social health.

It is also important to realize that the child, whom you feel like giving that nurturing attention to the least, is the one who needs it the most.

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Please remember that the advice given on this blog is not meant to replace medical advice or the direct advice of a mental health care professional.
"Connected Parenting advises us not just how to parent, but—far more important—who to be as parents. The therapeutic methods suggested by Jennifer Kolari are based not on simple-minded behavioural solutions, but on building warm, nurturing relationships with our children, with insight and compassion not only for their little flaws, but also for our own larger ones."
—Gabor Maté, M.D.

"A must read for parents, educators, and any other adults who want to connect in a deeply caring and positive way with the children in their lives."
—Barbara Coloroso