Post 327

Family Counselling, Part 3:
Reflections on Favouritism

Why does a parent bond with one child better than with another child?
Why does a parent empathize with one child better than with another child?

Favouritism is natural.
Favouritism is human.
Favouritism is mysterious.

It’s how we operate.
It’s how we relate to friends, acquaintances, and family members.

So many variations.
The child reminds you of yourself, so you like him more, or you like him less.
The child is the exact opposite of you, so you like him more, or you like him less.
The child is successful, so you like him more, or you like him less.
The child reminds you of your ex, so you like her more, or you like her less.
The child misbehaves, so you like her more, or you like her less.
The child is so ‘perfect,’ so you like her more, or you like her less.

Some parents believe they understand themselves.
They believe they know why they favour one child over another.
Other parents can’t figure out why they favour one child over another.

Let me say:
Favouritism is only a problem when the parent doesn’t see it as a problem.
Favouritism is serious when the parent is satisfied with a state of imbalance.
Favouritism is dangerous when the parent feels that the favouritism is entirely justified.
The bad parent says, “This is the way it is. I prefer him/her because of X and Y, and that’s just the way it is. It’s not my fault. It’s how I am; it’s how my child is.”
That’s no good. It’s dreadful, actually, to not care about the imbalance.

I am not worried about favouritism if the parent is worried about it.
Why not?
It’s because a worried parent will think about the imbalance and try to remedy it.

A worried parent wants to know what advice I have to give.

So here it is:

Dear Worried Parent,

First, don’t despair, or think you have an unusual problem. Many parents are drawn to one child more than to another.

Second, continue to show your love to the child you love easily (the “Loved Child,” let’s say).
Do not become cold and distant from the Loved Child in a misguided effort to balance things out.

Third, amplify your efforts with the other one, the “Unloved” Child.
You must work harder in every way.
Try everything.
The fact that things are easier with the other one is no answer.
Don’t blame the Unloved Child when your methods, which work so well with the Loved Child, go nowhere.
You must make every effort to understand the Unloved Child in the way that God understands the Unloved Child.
With effort, you will be able to melt away the barriers between yourself and your child.
I tell you, it is very likely that some of the barriers are in your own heart.
These barriers prevent you from appreciating all of the mysterious aspects of your child’s personality.
Talk with your child in the way that you would talk with your best friend.
Win your child over, using all of the techniques of true love.
Be inventive. Be daring. Be brave. Be silly.
Do not worry about being in control and in charge and all-knowing.
Often barriers between parent and child exist because the parent tries to maintain an image.
You could call it professionalism, but I might call it posturing.
Remove all of these artificial things. Break all the rules.
Forget about being tough and being strong.
Be open instead.
Why do you let your friend see more of the real you than your child sees?
The truth is that your child already knows a great deal more about your weaknesses than you realize.
So you must be humble. Humility is the main thing, actually. And honesty is part of humility.
So often we are dishonest because we are too proud or ashamed or embarrassed to admit how weak we are.
When you are honest about who you are, your child will also become more open.
Do not wait for your child to come to you. That is folly.
You are the parent. You must always be present to your child.
Never close the doors upon your child. That is also wrong. Never give up on your child.
God does not give up on anyone, and part of his not giving up on you (his child), is his gift to you of this child, this Unloved Child who will teach you to overcome yourself.