You may love your children equally, but that doesn't mean you like them all the same. You probably have a favorite child, and you're not alone. According to a 2005 research study published in the Journal of Psychology, over 70% of parents show preferential treatment towards one child. There are a number of ways parents show which kid is their favorite, and it's often incredibly subtle—some parents slightly change the tone of their voice or clearly feel more relaxed around one child than another.
Parenting is funny and weird. There's no shame in navigating the strange corners of love and connection. The truth is, though, that most parents don't want to admit they have a favorite child because there's some deep-seated stigma against preferring one child over another. In fact, the majority of parents may not even be aware they have a favorite because it often happens subconsciously.
Do parents have a favorite child? Absolutely. Does it make them a bad mom or dad? Nope! It's normal to feel a stronger connection to a child who's easier to discipline and well behaved; however, if you let the favoritism go unchecked, it can lead to lasting emotional scars. It's helpful to know the signs of favoritism to make sure you're not showing one child preferential treatment over the others.
Are you picking up on the fact that one of your kids seems needier than the others? It could be a sad symptom of you subconsciously favoring their other siblings. According to Dr. Barbara Howard, a developmental behavior pediatrician and assistant professor at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, kids can sense favoritism, and it breeds clinginess.
“Often the child is trying to get the attention of the parent who is rejecting them—the more you push a kid away, the more he will come at you,” she told The New York Times. “So if you see a kid coming at a parent, being aggressive or being clingy or needy or overly attention-seeking, often the parent doesn’t like the kid that much, or the kid perceives it.”
Some children are just easier to get along with than others. It's a fact. If you notice yourself feeling a little more relaxed with one of your children, that's normal, but it also shows you may have a favorite.
“Some days are sunny. Some days are rainy. We want both but, let’s face it, not in equal measure. I have two children. One brings warmth and sweetness into the room, the other sometimes makes me want to run for shelter," an anonymous parent told Man Repeller. " I can relax when I’m with one, I laugh more and it’s just more pleasant. With the other, interactions are intense, not because we have conflict, but because I never know what emotions will pour forth. When I think about it in terms of liking one or the other more, I resist that characterization because the experience with each is dissimilar to the other. Sunny days can go unnoticed, but a thunderstorm makes us pay attention.”
Ellen Webber Libby, Ph.D says that wanting to be around an easier-going child is totally normal, but it's important that the parent occasionally shows preferential treatment to the more difficult child and that the difficult child "trusts the feelings of being favored as legitimate."
Have you relaxed a bit throughout your years as a parent? It's pretty natural, but it's also a sign that you may just prefer your youngest. Do you ever catch yourself doling out harsher punishments to your older kids? Is your youngest getting away with things you'd never have let fly before?
Statistically, you're not alone. According to one study, 59% of parents favor their youngest—they're more likely to side with them in an argument and give them more attention.
Real talk: you probably have something in common with all of your children. They came from you, after all (and even if they didn't there's a whole lot to be said for the idea of nurture vs. nature). If you find yourself feeling like you have a little bit more in common with one child than another, you may just have a favorite.
You're not alone: 64% of parents feel like they have more in common with their eldest child and that having a conversation is easier.