By Dr Nimi Stephanie Ekere
Favouritism in parenting simply means preferring one child over another or the rest of the children.
Studies have shown that a large population of parents display consistent favouritism towards one child over another.
In a recent study done titled ‘The sibling effect’, the author affirms that 70% of fathers showed favouritism to a child while 65% of mothers displayed favouritism to one child. Another study has it that fathers preferred their female children while yet another study in Nigeria showed that male children were shown some form of preference over their female counterparts.
The reasons for favouritism include:
*Birth order– First and last borns are seen to be shown favouritism over their siblings.
*Gender : Some people show preference to a particular sex or gender especially if that gender was so desired.
*Children with special needs or ailments are understandably given a lot of attention which may not necessarily mean favouritism.
*Children who are affectionate would naturally attract same kind of emotions from their parents; talking about the law of reciprocity.
* Circumstances surrounding the birth: This includes, a child who was waited patiently for,a child born in old age e.g. Jacob loved Joseph because he was a child born at his old age and his mother, Rachel was his actually preferred wife until he was deceived to marry her sister.
Positive effects on the other siblings:
It confers some form of independence to the unfavoured children because they are almost indirectly taught independence while the favoured child cannot stand on her own without her parents and so cannot face the challenges life brings.
Negative effects on the other siblings:
*Conflict and disunity in the family.
*Hatred for the favoured child and even the parents.
*Low self esteem.
*Poor communication between parents and children.
*Depression in adulthood.
*Suicide in extreme cases.
The negative effect on the favoured child is that sometimes,he expects same gestures from outsiders and if their unrealistic expectations are not met, it leaves them depressed.
They are poorly behaved because they get away with a lot of things.
*Spend time with each child individually.
*Affirm and reaffirm their talents,strengths and interests.
*Celebrate achievements and milestones.
*Avoid unhealthy competition in your family.
In summary, favouritism in parenting dates back to the bible days as seen in the case of Rebekah who preferred Jacob to Esau and Isaac,on the other hand, preferred Esau to Jacob.
The consequences were deleterious and sadly outlived them.
Favouritism is human nature, it is sometimes inevitable but how parents and wards handle it is what matters.
While I do not encourage this act, I know that it might be an exercise in futility to tell a parent to drop the favouritism mantra. If you choose to have a favourite, please handle it with a great deal of wisdom and utmost maturity.
Know the love language of your child and profusely shower him with affection,so that you don’t end up creating unnecessary rivalry,bitterness and strife between your children.
Remember that you may also not be spared as they might eventually hate or resent you for loving them less than they deserved.
Dr Nimi Stephanie Ekere is a wife, mother and Family Physician. She enjoys writing, reading and attending to her patients. She is a life coach and teacher, who is passionate about children and young people walking in the right course and path to achieve their full potential.
Her Foundation, Ekom Charity Foundation mentors young people and also cares for the less privileged.