How to Avoid Favoritism in Families
The other day, I was asked: does favoritism exist in families? Yes, it does. It’s a totally natural human phenomenon. We tend to like the people we are like. There, I’ve said it.
The problem with favoritism is that kids start to compete against each other for their parents’ favor. Sibling rivalry can escalate and get out of hand, creating a tense home environment. Even when parents go to great lengths to treat every child equally, kids still recognize when parents are more approving toward one than others. There’s no way around it, especially when you are being extra careful to show that you aren’t playing favorites. The kids are even more determined to catch you in the act.
If you have been proclaiming that every kid is treated the same in your family, and then covering this phenomenon up by treating everyone exactly the same, buying multiples of the same thing so everyone gets one, making sure everyone goes on activities together, you have probably noticed that “same treatment” doesn’t always work. Here are three ways so show your kids you love each and every one of them in a special way because they are special.
1. Recognize Uniqueness With Equity
Know your kids well. Study them to learn their likes, dislikes, interests, hobbies, skills, and abilities. We are all unique and different, and that’s so we can complement each other in society. We are also called to different purposes in life and gifted accordingly. Even identical twins can end up taking very different paths in life. And as much as I love matching outfits, there is no need to force it. Appreciate the diversity.
With real consideration for your child’s uniqueness, design your interaction with them to maximize their joy. It’s not about how much money you spend on them. It’s the loving, encouraging words that you speak, the quality time and focus you give them, the activities you choose, the hugs, kisses and pats on the back, the ways your help and serve them. Be attentive to how they show love because that indicates the way that you can most effectively show love back to them so they see it as love. Help them see that they are important, that they belong, and that they make a difference at home.
2. Learn From The Challenging Ones
Unfortunately, not all of our kids are like us. They certainly haven’t had the decades of learning, growth, and maturing that we have. And personality-wise, they are probably very different from us in their temperament and approach. For example, I am an out-spoken doer. My son is a cautious thinker. We see the world very differently.
There may be times when our kids seem like the antagonists in our story. While you are giving everything you’ve got to make our world and homes a better place, your kids might be making messes, balking at your requests, or forecasting failure, usually with some sort of emotional outburst. It can be very hard for parents to understand or accept this antagonism from our own offspring. And that is where our growth opportunity lies.
We have much to learn from our kids who are least like us. We can learn how to be patient, see from a different (their) perspective, communicate with empathy, and give loving support. It is not easy. It is not natural. It is of God because God is love. And God specializes at loving the most challenging ones.
3. Forgive to Dispel Favoritism
Do not let disagreements pile up and get carried into every new interaction with the members of your family. Let them go. Start each day, each moment fresh. Make today a great day and be sure to pray for and bless your kids every morning.
When our kids were first born, they were perfect and pure. Give them that fresh start in your heart every single day, several times a day. Forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing. It doesn’t mean you condone their behavior. Teach them what to do, what’s acceptable behavior. Set them up to succeed. And forgive them when they get it wrong. My kids have been goofing up a lot lately. It has been a gift for them to have all these learning opportunities when they are young so they can learn the lesson and not have to repeat it with more serious matters when they get older.
There is always a result to our actions. There is some pain, penalty, or cost. Allow your child to feel it and empathize with them. Allow them to see some of the pain of worry, anxiety, stress, or breach of integrity that you have to carry for them. And if you’ve taken the low road and reacted badly, there is guilt and disappointment that you may be feeling as well. Say you are sorry. Ask for forgiveness. Seek reconciliation. Invite God’s will to be done in your life. There is no need to carry a heavy load of anger and disappointment that will cause a lack of favor.
Favoritism is Only Human
Favoritism is a human inclination. Fairness, justice, impartiality is divine and holy (Acts 10:34-35). May you continue to draw closer to God as you love your children for who they are. Please comment below with your insights on how to show impartiality with your kids.