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Are We There Yet?

Mon., May 10, 2010, 10:27 a.m.

Playing favorites and sibling rivalry

"I love you all equally." At least, that's what most parents tell their kids. But at some point in their life, children who have grown up with siblings will probably question whether or not that's true.

As the black sheep in my family, I was definitely not the favorite. But now that I have children of my own, I really don't want to create an environment in which my children feel like they have to compete for my time and affection.

It's natural for mothers and fathers to have different relationships with each child, according to psychologists. But when a parent -- especially the mother -- prefers one child over the rest, it can be detrimental to the less-favored kids. It might even lead to low self-esteem and behavioral problems that affect them well into adulthood, acccording to this recent USA Today story, "Mom's favoritism can affect kids, sibling rivalry as adults."

 

The article noted that this was more often the case among American families since our culture is focused on the individual instead of being "communally oriented." Favoritism also isn't as prevalent in large families. Brenda O'Shea, a mother of 10 from Munster, Ind., told USA Today: "We try very consciously not to compare grades, abilities, talents, any of that sort of thing. We don't encourage competition between the kids. We find they encourage each other."

One way to prevent sibling rivalry is by explaining to children why some siblings might be treated differently and to talk to kids about their understanding of fairness, clinical psychologist Laurie Kramer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign suggested in the article.

"Families don't tend to talk about these issues. They don't explain it and kids are left to their own imagination."

Which then leads to: "I'm not as good as my sister," or  "She likes my brother better than me."

 

Another expert interviewed in the story also suggested that families need to mix it up a little bit so that one parent isn't always with the same child.

What do you do at home to prevent sibling rivalry? Some children have more needs than others. It's also natural to want to spend time with people who share your hobbies or whose temperament matches your own. So what do you do to show your children that you love them all equally?




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This blog is intended to provide a forum for parents to share knowledge and resources. It's a place for parents young and old to combine their experiences raising families into a collective whole to help others.