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Think Twice Before Playing Favorites With Your Kids

Kyle could never live up to the standards set by his older brother. No matter what Kyle did, his brother did something even better.

Their parents weren’t very impressed with Kyle’s MVP award when Kevin was busy earning two first place medals the same year. It was Kevin they posted news about. Kevin they bragged on at parties. It was never a question who was the favorite. The only question in Kyle’s mind was whether his parents would notice if he wasn’t around.

Feeling frustrated, neglected and vulnerable, Kyle decided to try numbing the pain with drugs. Maybe his parents would notice him then.

Less Favored = More Likely

Kyle isn’t alone in his struggle. Researchers have found that “teens who feel their parents favor their siblings over them are more likely to use alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.”

The study discovered that teens whose families aren’t close are at particularly high risk – these teens are nearly twice as likely to use substances. If they’re in a disengaged family, feel less favored and feel that the preferential treatment is extreme, the teen is 3.5 times more likely to turn to drugs.

In short, researchers found that “the more the teen feels slighted, the more likely they are to use.”

Loving Kids Equally

Come on; is this really possible? Each kid is so different. Each has his or her own lovable (and less-than-lovable) qualities. Each presents their own challenges and rewards. No parent can truly love their kids the same…can they?

It’s a hard road, but the secret is to focus on loving each of your children in their uniqueness, rather than treating them exactly the same. They are different people, so you won’t have the same interactions with each. Instead, you can take steps to assure them that, even though certain things are different, you love them all the same amount.

Try These Tips

  • Set aside a time each week when you tell each child what you love about them – and why you love being their parent
  • Spend equal one-on-one time with each child
  • Avoid comparisons (“Your brother’s room is much cleaner than yours.”)
  • Complement each child, without referencing their sibling(s) (“Your room looks great – much neater than your sister’s!”)
  • Don’t label them (“He’s the brainy one.” “She’s the troublemaker.”)
  • Avoid gender stereotypes (“He shouldn’t play with that doll. Give him a truck.”)
  • Let them talk. Allow them to voice their feelings of jealousy or inadequacy. Listen to their concerns.