Sep 26, 2011  •  In Parenting, Personal, Relationships

Loving One Child More

One of my biggest fears about becoming a parent to more than one kid is that I will, one day, find myself loving one child more.

Is it possible to love all your children equally? Absolutely. But as today’s Motherlode article, titled “Do ALL Parents Love One Child More?” states, MOST parents end up preferring one child over the others.


This week’s Time magazine which discusses the science of favoritism

And I think that I have a valid reason to be concerned, because I have a predilection for — subconsciously or not — personally favoring the generally less favored.

Case in point: a friend used to be the proud owner of two Yorkies. And while both were adorable in their own ways, it was clear that one was more (for lack of better words) aesthetically pleasing to the eyes. Not only that, she was more friendly and obedient than her sister, who, when she was not being her moody self, tended to keep to herself.

And whenever I found myself in the presence of these dogs, I always gravitated toward the less-cute, surly sister. I would give her more attention, try harder to win over her affection, and gave her the treats first.

My friend was perplexed by my behavior. “It’s so funny how you interact with my dogs, because everyone else prefers the other one! It’s like you’re compensating for the lack of attention that the unfriendly one receives.”

Thinking back to my interactions with other children when I was young, as well as my relationships with my former students (I used to give piano and violin lessons, tutor students for the SATs, and was a youth group teacher at my former church), I have found that this has always been the case. I work harder with those who are generally less favored by society. With those who are obviously struggling more than others, and with those who tend to be more neglected or ignored.

Again, I do not seek to do these things. I guess it’s just the way that I am.

With all this in mind, I can’t help but wonder if I will be the same with my own children. Will I favor the one who is less popular among her peers? Will I give special treatment to the one who is less talented? Will I love this this child more?

And, my biggest fear of them all: will I end up neglecting the other child in an effort to build up the other one?

I guess that like practically all parenting ‘what-if’s, only time will tell, and that I will just have to do the best that I can to make sure that all my children feel equally loved and attended to.

But I do know one thing: I will never tell a child that I love him/her the most. I actually know some people whose parents have confided in them this admission, and I just don’t see how this could be beneficial to the child.

Do you share with me the fear that you will end up preferring — and loving — one child over the rest? How do you plan on handling it if it happens?

15 Responses to “Loving One Child More”

  1. I totally agree with you: you feel what you feel and you can’t help it but I don’t understand how telling a child that you love them or less than their siblings could be good for them!
    However I’m not sure if it can be so extreme (I don’t have kids, so I have no experience) – maybe you just love them differently, for different reason, just as you love different friends or relative in a different way? Maybe more and less is no the right measurement scale? I don’t know.

  2. I read that post on The Motherlode.

    I have to say that I have absolutely ZERO fear of loving one child more than the other.

    However, I have MAJOR fear of LIKING one child more than the other.

    I am the eldest of two girls in my family. I was the overachieving, obedient, hard-working, parent-pleasing child. My little sister took on the role of underachieving, disobedient, slacking-off, parent-defying child.

    It drove my parents up the wall-especially my mother. My mom and I would be friends even if we weren’t mother/daughter. She and I get along really well (even if we drive each other a little crazy now and then). We’ve always gotten along really well- there was never a period of teen angst or anything like that between us.

    With my sister it was the opposite. She and my mom were always at loggerheads. Now that my sister is in her 20s, it’s much better than it was. However, in her teens, I think they disliked each other vehemently.

    At the time when things were contentious between them, my mother cried to me about how hard to it was not to like your own child. I think her guilt and sadness about that was compounded by knowing how opposite her relationships with her two daughters were.

    My husband is an only child, and all his life his parents have told him, “We’re so lucky to have a son we like as much as we love.” If they weren’t related, they’d still want to be his friend.

    I pray that I like all my children as much as I love them… equally.

  3. Kate:

    I have long suspected that my mother has a preference for one of us over the other – but I believe that because she is obsessed with being fair. I see it as her attempt to do her best not to show that favoritism. Naturally, I assume she prefers my brother (you should see the way she lights up around him, you might assume the same!) but I also think that’s fairly typical for a child to assume. I’d rather not know if I’m right or wrong and she is loving enough to swear she does not favor one of us so I would never try to pressure her into admitting “the truth” – after all, she may be just telling the truth when she says she doesn’t favor one of us. I can’t know.

    I wonder if this is the kind of thing that goes in phases. Like at some points in life you may prefer one child over the other or feel like you love one more than the other but at other times you may feel the opposite. I would imagine it’s not unlike other relationships in that respect except that you’re a parent and the feelings are different.

  4. JMeg:

    I read the article, and I’ll admit: I have a favorite.

    But here’s the thing: I don’t LOVE one child more over the others (I have three—6,3, and 20 mos.). I love them all DIFFERENTLY, but not more or less.

    Although I prefer different kids at different times, one child (and no, I won’t say which one) is what a lot of people say is my favorite. I bonded with her differently because I almost lost her during the pregnancy, a few times, and so never bonded with her in utero. No difference — she “gets” me, and I “get” her. She can make my eyes twinkle in a split second. But while it’s preference it doesn’t change how much I love my other two.

    I would do anything for all of them. People will always tell you not to treat them differently, but they are different. Different people, different needs. My oldest needs quality time, one-on-one with people to feel loved. My second needs to be the center of attention to feel loved. My third needs to make you laugh to feel loved. You can do it all, and how you feel about one won’t necessarily how you feel about the other.

  5. this is one of my biggest worries as we plan for baby #2! i look at e and wonder how i could ever love another baby as much or in the same way. i appreciated your honesty during claire’s first few months and i hope you share your thoughts on this once baby deux is here!

  6. One of my parents actually confided in me once when I was really young that I was their favorite and I hate the fact that I was told that. It truly tears me up inside because I know that my siblings have believed that and I feel so terrible for it. Because of this, I have the same fear, and I, like you, tend to want to give extra attention to those in need. But I hope that for the most part, parents favor children for different reasons, if they favor at all. Maybe for their scholastic ability or athletic ability. Or maybe their sense of humor or deep thought is favored over another. Not the child itself. I’m hoping that if I end up with any favoritism at all that its in that manner only. But like you said, when you think of having kids and a family you can’t help but worry about the “what-ifs”.

  7. I definitely want to read that article. It’s so interesting. And, what’s funny is that I felt that way even with my nieces. I was so worried that I wouldn’t love the 2nd one as much as the first. But of course I loved her just as much.

  8. Nichole:

    Don’t fear that you will love one child over another. You wouldn’t be married to your husband if you didn’t love him more than any other guy. It’s in our nature to “pick favorites” but that doesn’t make you a bad mom. Your children will pick a favorite parent. The key is to make sure your children never know who you love more.

  9. I think it’s so interesting to think about that, and I think it’s absolutely natural to favor one child over the other – it isn’t a pretty reality, but we’re human! Like you said, I think the important thing is to not let it be known.

  10. Christine:

    I’m the second to the youngest and I can say with absolute certainty that my parents love my eldest sister the best for her accomplishments, my other sister for her beauty, my eldest brother for being the first born boy, and my baby brother for being the baby (and also more attention because he was born with a genetic bleeding disorder). That left me out in the cold – literally! It was always quite obvious (to me and others) that I was the black sheep – and I definitely did not act, think, speak, do, or look like any of my siblings.

    And that all changed on my wedding day when my dad had made his speech. I honestly resented both my parents nearly my entire life because it was so glaringly obvious that my parents paid the least attention to me and “loved me less”. Well, I was sorely mistaken and it brought me to tears how much I had misjudged their love for me. It was quite the obvious – they knew from the beginning that I would always make it on my own, so they let me do things on my own. They had always felt I was the strongest and most independent.

    My dad put it very eloquently – My eldest sister needed constant encouragement, my other sister needed constant reaffirment of her beauty, my eldest brother always depended on others (hence my parents constantly calling him the first born boy – to encourage him to be independent and care for the entire family), and my baby brother, well, he has special medical needs. They knew that all they needed for me was to give me space to grow and I would become a woman on my own. It was very touching.

    In the end, I am glad they loved us all differently. We’re now a collective group of quirky and successful siblings. It was the best thing.

  11. Molly P:

    I’ll admit it, I do have a favorite kid. (out of 2) But it changes every day, maybe even every hour. I like the one who is sleeping well and not throwing a temper tantrum! :) I guess that’s about as far as my preferences go.

  12. jane:

    that is a very valid concern to have because parents probably don’t realize they do that. I’m sort of with you in that I tend to gravitate or pay more attention to the neglected kids back when I used to teach Sunday school. it’s great that you have a heart for those kids. as for yours, I think you’ll love them differently but still equally as cliche as it sounds. I think it’s possible and I’ve seen it among parents.

  13. Unfortunately I think it’s inevitable that you will like one child more…I don’t think that necessarily means that you love them more. Personality conflicts as the kids get older are bound to make you connect better to one over the others and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that as long as you don’t make it obvious to the other children that you like one better than the other. Don’t fret, since it’s already on your mind you’re bound to be conscious of it later and make an effort to treat them the same =)

  14. I have to agree with many of these answers – I definitely don’t love one child more, but I know that there will be times I’ll like one more. You may have more in common with one of your kids, or you may be going through a particularly tough age with one of them. Just because I will always love my kids doesn’t mean I’ll always like them or the way they act. I think that the most important thing is making sure both kids feel loved.

  15. My parents babied a sibling of mine because he was not as good in school, a bit lazy, and unable to take control of his life to be independent.

    As a result, they magnified his personality to be even less independent until we stepped in to handle the situation and kick him out of the house where he was mooching.

    I am not saying you do this or will do this, it’s just that I’ve read that they say the more you weaken the weak child and strengthen the stronger child by not giving them as much attention, it makes it worse. I saw that in my family.

    As much as parents want to say they don’t have favourites — they do.

    I know I will when I get older, I will click better with one than the other and that’s the reality of the situation but the key is to be CONSCIOUS of this favouritism and to make sure you fight against it by being fair to all of your kids.

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