Reviews & Profiles
Preferring one child over another can wreck a family
Posted Thursday, October 31 2013 at 02:00
Many parents display consistent favouritism toward one child over another. This favouritism can manifest in different ways: more time spent with one child, more affection given, more privileges, less discipline, or less abuse.
Jackie, a 22-year-old university student, says she never enjoyed her childhood. Growing up with only her mother, she found herself constantly in the shadow of her young sister whom the mother seemed to favour a lot. She says she felt like her mother was always hard on her. “I was never allowed to play before finishing house chores.”
“I felt like an outsider throughout my childhood and this made me hate my young sister. I felt terrible and always wondered what was wrong me. It took me long to actually come to terms with what was happening because I felt like an outsider most of the time,” she says.
Jackie says her mother’s attitude changed when her father died. “She started venting all her frustration on me,” she says.
Some parents usually tend to favour some of their children at the expense of their siblings; these may be due to character differences among the children.
Some children are happy and easygoing while others are loners. A parent can easily prefer a child who is “always happy” over one who is usually quiet because the child brings warmth.
Other children are very jumpy and wild in character. They don’t like to work and rebel against parents, while others are calm and always willing to do work without whining. In such a case, a parent’s affection will lean toward the calm child. This one sided preference is favouritism.
Finding solace elsewhere
Mr Steven Langa, a counsellor with Family Life Network (FLN), says not all children are alike and as such parents ought to love them in their own right. He also adds that a child who does not get the parents’ equal attention will be forced to be rebellious in order to get their (parents) attention.
Most parents will deny having a favourite child if the topic is brought up for discussion.
But in reality, some parents unknowingly get attached to a particular child due to their unique abilities. Langa says this is wrong and explains that children have different characters.
He urges parents to love their children equally. “Favouritism is an emotional minefield which causes children to sometimes hate each other.”
Nancy Ayaa, a child counsellor with FLN explains that favouritism cases happen due to the differences in personalities of the children. The way you treat your children will demonstrate how much you love each of them. She says it is paramount that parents get to understand their children so as to relate with them without creating room for them to feel less loved.
Lucky Akareut, a mother of two, says she is usually careful when assigning duties to her two daughters.
She says her older daughter is rebellious and complains about almost everything unlike her younger sister who works without hesitation. In spite of all this, she says she loves her daughters equally. She gives them the same kind of work and supervises them closely.
James Wabwire, a second year student of psychology says families especially those that have only two children, have each parent taking special interest in a child, the mothers profess their love for the first born sons more while the fathers do the same for their little daughters. This, unknown to many, is another form of favouritism.
Just like in Jackie’s case, favouritism manifests in so many ways. Being the first born, her mother expected her to mature at an early stage.
Although at the time it seemed like her mother was picking on her, it is only after she grew up that she realised that her mother acted that way because she (Jackie) reminded her of her late husband.
Langa strongly discourages such behaviour. He says parents should not treat their children selectively, adding that if you are punishing a child, make sure to explain to them that what they have done is wrong and tell them what you expect of them. He urges parents who are going through a rough patch to seek professional help to cope with the transition.
Jalia Matovu, a counsellor with African Style Arts based in Seguku says favouritism has a lasting effect on the child’s esteem. A child who is loved will tend to have more self-esteem.
Jackie shares that in her case, it became terrible as she constantly tried to seek approval from other people. “I ended up wanting people to like me. I expected my cousins to like me. I spent most of my time seeking approval from them yet they were busy with their own life,” says Jackie.