By Nikki Woods
There tends to be a well-meaning sweetness in the lies parents tell their kids, which is a very good thing, since we seem to tell a lot of them. Yes, that indecipherable crayon scribble looks exactly like Grandma. No, I didn’t put that tooth-fairy money under your pillow. Santa Clause ate the cookies and countless others. Now whether or not these lies are harmless or not may differ depending on who you ask but according to a recent Time magazine article, there’s one lie that nearly all parents tell, and they tell it repeatedly: “I do not have a favorite child.”
And yes, the article says – that it is indeed a lie. In fact, it insists that all parents really do have a favorite, even if it’s a subconscious one.
Not sure how you argue with the “subconscious lie” theory, but I have always said and maintain to this day that I do not have a favorite child. But it may be easier for me to say than some. First, I only have two children so the oldest feels special because he is the first-born and other feels special because he is the baby. Second – I have two boys, so there are no differentiations based on sex. Third, my sons’ personalities are like night and day and neither one of them want to be like the other. So one activity I might enjoy with my older son – like watching baseball, and my younger son wants no parts of it. And vice versa.
But apparently I’m delusional because according to several experts, having a favorite child is just the natural order of things, just like in the animal kingdom.
Research done by Jeffrey Kluger, author of The Sibling Effect, shows that 65 percent of moms and 70 percent of dads have a favorite kid and that it seems the oldest child tends to be the favored one by a majority of parents. And because of this, older children often grow up to be the tallest and/or strongest of the kids, with higher IQs.
By default then, it would seem that favoritism does a disservice to the other kids in the family.
And that would be correct.
Experts say that it can – especially during childhood but may diminish somewhat in adulthood as each sibling finds his or her own place in the world.
But as children, favoritism can cause a certain amount of sibling rivalry, anger at the favorite, and guilt of the favorite for having that status. Non-favored children wonder what they did or didn’t do that caused them to not garner as much love or attention from their parents.
Non-favored children can feel lonely and unwanted as they watch the favorite bask in all the glory. And these old feelings can resurface during troublesome times in adulthood — sometimes when it comes to the care of aging parents, when a parent dies or during adult sibling arguments.
I warn my children’s father about this all the time. While I languish lavishly in the mansion my boys have already promised to buy me, his rocking chair may be rocking on the porch of the old folks home. Just kidding. Kinda. I really don’t think he has a favorite either, but then we both just may be delusional.
I do feel bad for the children who are obviously not the favorite. I think you can easily spot them as adults. They are the ones that always seem to be vying for attention or crave the spotlight – in relationships and the workplace.
And although the damage may dimish as you get older, I don’t think it ever really goes away.
Sooooo … anyone want to ‘fess up to having a favorite kid?
Nikki Woods is senior producer of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The author of “Easier Said Than Done,” the Dallas-based Woods is currently working on her second and third novels. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @nikkiwoods.