Survey shows that some parents have a favourite child – and they’re happy to admit it


Just when we were all feeling secure in the knowledge that our parents adored us and our siblings equally, a new survey has revealed that some parents do have a favourite child – and are happy to admit to it.

The survey, which was carried out by UK parenting sites Mumsnet and Gransnet, asked just over 2000 users to share their honest opinions about their children/grandchildren.

The results showed that just under a quarter of parents with more than one child had a favourite; and 42 per cent of grandparents admitted having a favourite grandchild.

The youngest child was the most likely favourite among parents.

Grandparents most commonly preferred the eldest.

Children that were deemed “easy”, “loving and affectionate” or that made their parents laugh were most often the golden child.

In the case of grandparents, the eldest was favoured because they were the first, reincarnated mini-version of their children.

Other findings showed:

  • Most agreed that having a favourite was ‘awful’ and they thought it was damaging for other siblings (78 per cent of mums and 56 per cent of grans).

  • Many felt it was damaging for the favourite (45 per cent of Mumsnet users and 34 per cent of Gransnet users).

  • Of the Mumsnet users who said they had a favourite child, 13 per cent said their other children definitely or probably knew which was the favourite; 10 per cent of grans thought their favourite’s siblings were aware.

  • The favouritism was not set in stone. A third of the mums and 15 per cent of the grans said their favourite changed over time.

So, what do we take from that?

There’s probably no denying we’ve all witnessed or experienced favouritism if we take a look at our own families.

In my family I, the eldest, was definitely Nana’s favourite. It used to make my dad mad and me feel a bit superior; I never even thought to consider how it might have made my brother feel. But if my parents favoured either of us, they never let it show.

With my own kids I would unequivocally deny ever having a favourite and you would never catch me saying otherwise. I love them all more than life itself and they each have their individual quirks and traits that I appreciate.

But I’m sure most parents would agree that kids definitely go through ‘ages and stages’ where they can be more challenging to deal with than at other times.

In an article in the New York Times developmental behavioral pediatrician Dr Barbara Howard claims it’s “impossible” for parents not to have favourites and that a parent can “feel terribly guilty” about that. In the context of ages and stages I guess I can appreciate what she’s articulating.

She says finding ways to enjoy spending time with the other child is how you overcome this.

In the same article Catherine Salmon, an associate professor of psychology and the co-author of The Secret Power of Middle Children, suggests developing new rituals with the less-favoured child, like an early-morning cuddle before the day gets going.

Maybe the lesson here is not so much that you shouldn’t feel guilty about enjoying one child over another at certain points in time, but that you shouldn’t show it.

Kids can can sense when you’re not enjoying them and their behaviour can even become more problematic because they’re trying to fight for your attention and favour.

The way we’re treated as children shapes the people we become as adults. It’s up to us as parents to make sure each of our children feels loved and valued.

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