Q: I know you get a number of writers who have been treated differently from their siblings by their parents with respect to gifts, money, privileges, etc. Do any parents out there actually intend to treat their children differently?
I am asking because I was treated very differently from my sibs — still am — and I am expecting a second child now. I feel nervous about how it will change my relationship with my firstborn.
Treating Kids Fairly
A: What bad behaviors do any of us intend? Our minds are rigged to self-justify, so I have no doubt parents who play favorites see the merits of their choices.
The difference between the people owned by their frailties and those who behave honorably in spite of them is just a combination of self-awareness and a willingness to take on whatever discomfort comes with the good decision you need to make.
So when you find yourself preferring one child to another, you can either scratch that normal but highly consequential emotional itch, or you can step back, note your preference, and then make a point of blocking off special time with your currently less-favored child, so you can work on your bond.
It's not easy; you have to be patient. You have to find energy when you're tired. You have to be careful not to pick your favorite activities when they set that child up to fail, and instead choose activities that bring out the better in both of you.
You make this effort because it's right and because it's good for you, too.
And you watch yourself from that point on to make sure you're not turning a better face to either child, be it in the size of the cookie you hand out or the depth of the empathy you express.
If it helps, you're in a good spot right now: You understand your power and how much harm you can do by abusing it. That's good news for your babies.