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Treating Siblings Equally
Favoritism or equality?
It is really impossible to treat siblings equally. Every child will have different feelings and difficulties at different times in their life. Good and sensitive parenting means giving each child what they need. To do this, a parent must evaluate each situation for each child.
Handling each child differently can be difficult for many parents. Most of us have been raised to believe that if we don’t deliver identically we will be playing favorites. Consider the lengths one mother went to: “My two boys were watching Sesame Street together. Naturally, they both wanted to sit on the same side of the couch. My solution to their seating arrangement was to set a timer so that they changed positions every five minutes.” Now this mother recalls, “I thought they would become best friends because I was treating them the same, but they actually became more involved in who got what. Sharing the couch became symbolic of their relationship. They started fighting. for everything. To this day I get a headache when I hear a kitchen timer go off.”
Parents often tell me that the concepts of equality and favoritism are even more complicated because in their hearts they do not hold the same for each child. A father explains his preferences for his older son: “We are much more alike. He is diplomatic and very well-liked. On the other hand, my younger son does all kinds of things that I am afraid to do . He’s funnier and more creative than I am.”
It often helps to look within. No matter how much we might want to erase our past histories and preferences, we can’t. Why are our feelings for one child stronger than those for another? You, the firstborn, were always jealous of the second child? Were you labeled as the impossible guy or the brilliant saint who could do no wrong? Were you the protected child?
How do you know if you are favoring one child over another? Take a step back and you’ll probably find yourself feeling passionately about your favorite child in a sibling fight. A father explains how he was reliving the old battles of his childhood: “I identified so much with my youngest son that in the middle of their battle I would call my older son by my brother’s name, who constantly fought with me”.
Parents often overreact to help the child they most identify with. For example, if you are a firstborn who is still fighting against your younger sibling, you may be very protective of the older child. One mother reports that she often sided with her older daughter because as a child her mother had always protected the baby, not her. “I had these strong emotions, out of proportion to the situations, I felt old., unresolved anger. My youngest child’s feelings were badly hurt; she felt abandoned. She couldn’t understand why I always jumped to my sister’s defense of her.”
It can be helpful to remember, especially as you grow more attached to a child, that your feelings for each of your children will constantly change and grow. The child you identify with most today will not necessarily be the child you feel most strongly about tomorrow.
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#Treating #Siblings #Equally