Tag Archives: Personality

Kids Lose When Parents Play Favorites

Favoritism exists throughout the animal kingdom.  Most species nurture the strongest of their offspring, which have the most promise of propagating their genetics into the future.  The wussy and wimpy ones, on the other hand, usually get eaten.  So when it comes to humans, it makes sense biologically that parents play favorites amongst their children.

Parents are drawn to kids who are more pleasant and affectionate, and less aggressive and deviant. For example, let’s say you have twin babies. One screams 24/7 and the other coos sweetly in your arms.  Well guess what? The screaming one is toast.

Parents also tend to feel closer to children of the same gender and personality type, and favor their biological kids over stepchildren.  In addition, parents usually have a soft spot for their first- and lastborn (at some point, the first- and lastborn have their parents all to themselves).  Generally speaking, it’s the firstborns who get all the perks due to the emotional and physical investment that goes into having the first baby.

Favoritism manifests itself in how much time, affection, privilege, or discipline you give one child compared to another.  The problem is that kids who are blatantly disfavored by their parents experience terrible outcomes across the board: more depression, greater aggressiveness, lower self-esteem, and poorer academic performance.  On the opposite side of the coin, children who are favored tend to develop a sense of arrogance and entitlement, which makes them terribly disliked by their siblings and totally unprepared for the real world.

So, how can a parent avoid showing favoritism?

1. When one kid is looking for a leg up, pick up everybody’s leg.

The irony is that every kid wants to feel like they’re different and special in their own way.  Your job is to do that without making them compete with each other.  When one of your kids asks, “Am I the best swimmer in the family?,” respond by saying, “I think you’re the best swimmer, and George is the best baseball player, and Mary is the best painter,” etc.  That way, each of your children has the mentality that he or she is the best, but so are their siblings.  There’s no favoritism shown because everybody’s the best at something.  Try to divvy out your love and affection equally, but continue highlighting each child’s uniqueness.

2. It’s not personal – it’s situational.

  • If you have a new baby at home, explain to your older child, “Your brother is a newborn. He can’t roll over or even scratch his butt – he can’t do anything.  So for a while, it’s going to look like we’re paying more attention to him, but you can scratch your butt and he can’t.”  Your older child will think this is hilarious, and they’ll get the picture (and wait for the day that their brother’s hand reaches behind his back…)
  • If one of your children is physically ill or disabled, inevitably there is going to be unequal treatment.  Make it clear to your other kids that you are not choosing the disabled child over them, but that their sibling’s condition simply requires more attention.  Reassure your other kids that it’s not personal – it’s just situational.

Why You Should Keep Striving in Life

All of us suffer from a phenomenon known as the “end of history illusion”.  Essentially, we tend to underestimate how much we will change in the future.  For example, everyone looks back and thinks, “I can’t believe I did those stupid things”; “I can’t believe I was so wrong/silly/impulsive”; “I can’t believe I really liked that food/hobby/band”; “If I only knew then what I know now…”

Although most people acknowledge that their lives have changed even in the past decade, they generally underestimate the extent to which their personalities and tastes will shift in the future.  We like to concentrate on our present wonderfulness and think that the person we are at the moment is who we’ll be forever.  Yet, change is inevitable and change is constant.  You’re never going to be the person you expect to become for the rest of your life (unless it’s one second before your death).   

However, I think there is an even more important reason why people don’t accept how different they’ll be in the future: “If I am going to change, it implies I’m not so terrific now.”

I choose not to look at it that way.  Instead of seeing yourself as someone with a bunch of flaws to correct, I think it’s a better attitude to consider the changes as opportunities for growth.  You’re expanding your horizons and having new adventures.  As I mentioned on-air, I was a little unhappy about turning 66.  It just seemed old to me.  However, I decided that instead of this being my slide down, it was going to be my slide up.  Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of work with metal and jewelry for my Dr. Laura Designs store.  My motivation is to keep learning how to use new tools and master different techniques (sometimes I drive myself so crazy that I have to close the door of my craft room and watch a movie to get my brain to leave me alone for a minute).  I keep myself in a constant state of learning with my crafts, program, and life in general. 
       
It’s also important to accept that you’re never going to be perfect.  When I’m filing a piece of metal, it seems like a never-ending process.  I do my best to file away all the tiny imperfections, but no matter how much I file, it’s never going to be perfect on a molecular level.  However, I don’t stop trying – I just accept that it won’t be perfect.  Striving for perfection without accepting that there isn’t any is neurotic.

I think that’s the best mentality to have in life: accept that you’ll never be perfect, but keep putting your best effort forward.  We will all die one day and we still won’t be perfect.  However, instead of sliding down the ladder because we feel like it’s no use, we need to keep going up.  As long as there are still steps on that ladder, we need to climb them.