can one be a good parent while playing favourites?

we’re only human right? i think it’s entirely not unusual to love both and still have a favourite.

I think the problem comes in when the children notice, though. And it’s not always as easy to hide it as parents think. It may not mess them up for life and if someone is doing their best despite preferences, I don’t think they’re automatically a bad parent. I guess it really depends on how the parent handles their feelings.

My sister will always have a closeness that I won’t have with my mom. It is partially self-imposed, I feel like my mom is emotionally manipulative and I try to stay away from that drama.

You can’t expect to have the exact same relationship with your parents as your siblings do. We are all individuals and each have our own take on the situation at hand.

oh btw this is the quote that prompted this thread -

while i agree it is a classy reply, i wonder if it’s a politically correct white lie. are humans built to love people equally?

fake eta: it just occurred to me that i might have missed an important distinction between the phrase “playing favourites” and “having a favourite”. is there?


Playing favorites with your kids is really, really bad. It’s very damaging to everyone and IME it never stops even in adulthood. It poisons a family, as far as I can tell.

Loving your children as the individuals they are isn’t quite loving them the same, but loving them equally is perfectly possible. My two girls are very different and need different things, but I hope I treat them equally.

I would say a HUGE difference. Playing favorites means you ALWAYS favor one or the other, or an obvious disproprtionate amount of the time. It means you hold wildly different standards for your chidren, and enforce rules differntly out of proportion for any justification you might have. Basically when you are “playing favorites” one child can do no wrong and is the Golden Child.

I used to teach horseback riding. I had a student who had a bad experience and came to me with a lot of fear. The whole time this girl was trying her damndest, her mother was going “Oh Brother is so athletic Brother isn’t scared of anything, wouldn’t it be nice of Girl was brave like Brother? I guess she’ll just never be as good as Brother sigh” Disgusting. I politely ejected her from the ring, though I would have rather smacked her in the mouth.

I’d agree that the problem comes when the kids notice. And kids pick up on a lot more than adults give them credit for.

As for whether there is a difference between playing favorites and having a favorite, yeah, there’s a difference. Though unlike posts upthread, the way I see it, “playing favorites” implies that one kid isn’t always the favorite and that you’re potentially holding up one kid as an example to the other. I don’t like the idea of comparing children, whether they’re your own or someone else’s. “Having a favorite” means (to me) that one kid is always the favored child.

For what it’s worth, as a parent, I sometimes *like *one of my kids more than the other. Notice I said like, not love. I love them both passionately and equally. But it’s hard to like someone who’s constantly throwing tantrums for any reason at all (sometimes for no reason), who doesn’t follow your instructions, who’s mouthy, etc. But, like with most things kid related, the behavior changes, often very quickly. There will be times when everything feels just blissful - both kids are happy, relaxed, thoroughly delightful to be around. Then there are other times when one or both just seems to be a timebomb waiting to go off.

I’m not proud of sometimes liking one kid more than the other sometimes, but it’s damned hard not to. Just like any other parent, I put up with shit from my kids that I’d never tolerate from anyone else. And sometimes one kid dishes more shit out than the other does. I treat them as equally as possible while being age appropriate.

That depends on what you mean by the word love. I took Alessan to mean his/her actions, not the way she or he feels.

Perhaps, but not necessarily on any rational basis.

My friend is a veterinarian, a landowner, a taxpayer, and a happily married woman. Her brother is a drug addict who has been in and out of rehab for 20 years and can’t hold down a job. Whenever she goes home she gets nothing but disapproval and has to hear how AMAZING her brother is. They do not like that she has a “dirty”/physical job and lives on a farm in the “sticks” so basically she can’t do anything right to them. Personality wise and lifestyle wise and career wise, and pretty much by every measure she has little in common with her parents but it’s pretty ridiculous the lengths they’ll go to demonstrate their favoritism. They obviously like him more which is fine but it’s like they actively avoid noticing her good qualities.

I was the favorite in my family, then we “switched” after college and it was my brother, then we switched a few times more over the years. Amazingly, it has brought us closer together in not giving a shit what our parents think of us. But for most siblings the favoritism cycle is pretty toxic.

Oh, make no mistake - I don’t think there’s always a rational basis for holding one kid up as an example to the other. My sister was always considered smarter than me, while I was the “good” one. We’re about equal in intelligence and achievement, but I wasn’t really the good one - just better at not getting caught. Still, I was my mom’s favorite and still am.

As far as I’m concerned, the only potentially understandable basis for my mom’s favoritism was that I was more pleasant to be around. My sister went through an entire set of plates one summer - she broke all of them in various rages, including several bowls - so my guess is that I was just less scary.

I see it the other way too, that the druggie trouble-making kid gets all of the attention (albeit negative) and the good kid that never gets in trouble gets practically ignored.

I agree with this. We are only human. My middle son (in marked departure from middle child stereotype as troublesome one) is just plain nicer than my other two. He is nicer than most people. He is upbeat, optimistic, affectionate, and empathetic, a pleasure to be with.

Also agree with other posters that have distinguished between “playing favorites” and “having favorites”. I really do try hard to treat all my children equally and never say “why can’t you be like your brother” (though seriously, why can’t they? :)). In the unlikely event that I will have assets to bequeath I will divide them equally.

I don’t think most parents like all their kids the same or as much, but I think most truly do love them equally.

Liking someone’s personality and getting along smoothly with them, and loving someone deeply the way we usually do our partners, children, and pets, are very different concepts, to me anyway. You can love someone madly and not always like who they are, how they act, and how difficult it is for you to get along.

Both my mum and dad favoured me and it was obvious, but in my case it was a bit difference, because there was a ten year age difference between myself and my brother and a 12 year difference between my sister and me.

I think the favouritism was just little kids are cuter. Also when you’re older (my mum was 45 by the time I was born) the parents are much more relaxed with parenting skills and are more settled in life. So while the favouritism may not be intentional it’s still there.

I think you certainly can be a great parent if you like your kids differently but love them the same. My mom and I are much closer than she is to my brothers; I was the first born and she desperately wanted me. My brothers, while wanted, were never super-planned like me. We also have a lot of similarities in our personalities and we like shopping (food, clothes, books, you name it) together. I finish her sentences, I listen to her in ways my father doesn’t. She cried for weeks when I left for college and is much, much happier to be moving 20 minutes from me in a few weeks/months. But I think most of that can be chalked up to a mother-daughter relationship.

But my brothers never doubted that she loved us all equally and treated us all fairly. Notably, she only expected the most from us individually, never comparing us to each other. I see a lot of parents fall into this (dad included) and it’s hell on earth. Each kid is different and has different strengths and weaknesses.

My in-laws are like this, but the druggie trouble-making kid seems to actually be the favorite, maybe through underdog syndrome? Or they’re just scared of him. He’s been favored ever since I’ve known them–in fact when my parents came to meet them for the first time, my now-FIL spent the whole time talking about the greatness of the trouble-making kid (not, say, my fiance) and how it wasn’t his fault he got expelled from high school. :dubious: Meanwhile the other nice son who always helps out gets stomped on; he finally got tired of it and cut them off.

There’s a difference between having favorites and playing favorites. Being a good parent requires treating them equally and fairly, giving them the same opportunities, same help, same lessons and same love. As long as you do those things, it doesn’t matter if you privately have a favorite.

I would also add that there comes a point where the children are adults, and are no longer necessarily entitled to equal treatment. They should still be treated fairly, but you don’t have to give the compulsive gambler a car just because you gave one to the recent college graduate. Being fair doesn’t mean that you can’t adjust treatment according to prudence or merit.

As a parent you should love your children all the same 100%. Sure you may have a child that is harder to get along with but playing favorites is not a good idea. Children are perceptive. They can telll when a parent has a favorite and frankly it makes them feel like crap.
Don’t do it.

My mother is dying. I have always felt that my older brother was her favorite.[sup]*[/sup] I read her will to perpare for handling her estate. Everything is split equally between us, except he also gets the house. It even says that she’s not doing it out of favoritism, but to compensate him for a perceived slight fifteen years ago. She always said that she didn’t play favorites, I guess she’s sticking with that story to her grave and beyond.

My brother is 48 and has never lived on his own. He may have Asperger’s, or may just be the laziest person on the face of the earth. Mom has never pushed him to be more independent, or to deal with the consequences of his own actions.

I haven’t built the most successful life for myself, but it’s more than that. So, is favoritism a help or a hinderance?
I suspect it has something to do with birth order. My mom is the older of two girls. I was probably my dad’s favorite, and he’s the younger of two sons.

Absolutely. You can even have someone who’s your favourite for some things and someone who’s your favourite for others (different hobbies, for example), and that’s fine, it means that each child has a unique, personal relationship with the parent. The problem is not when “Mommy likes Joe best” - it’s when Mommy praises Joe’s perfection so much that the other sibs are convinced they’ll never be up to snuff, or when he can get away with murder because, no matter what he does, he’s still and will always be Mommy’s Perfect Boy, period.
I can tell you that I like Middlebro best when it comes to home improv, but Littlebro best when it comes to money stuff - guess what fields they work in! And both when it comes to having a lively debate on anything from why is the sky blue to whether cancer is a genetic disease to how to improve employment ratings.