Dear Patricia Marie

I'm worried that I love one of my children more than the other. While one is sweet-natured, funny and full of character, the other is sullen and unresponsive. My husband doesn't seem to notice the difference, but to me it's obvious and I find it hard to treat them in the same way. I hate myself for it, but I'd rather spend time with one than the other. How can I stop this cycle?

Patricia Marie says...

If you think favouritism is no big deal - think again. The consequences for both the golden child and the least favourite can last a lifetime. Many adults embark on counselling due to the psychological damage of having either been the rejected, or indeed the favourite sibling. That early message of  "you're the special one " to a child can give a distorted view of themselves and their place in the world. For those parents who show preference and turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour, the child can then grow up struggling with rules, as well as lacking in morals and may struggle to find a partner who cherishes and spoils them in the way their parents have.

The least favourite, on the other hand, can go through life never feeling good enough, constantly feeling they are undeserving of love and kindness - often embarking on relationships with partners who treat them poorly.

Step into their world and try to imagine how they are feeling. Indeed, both are victims of your favouritism, and unless you see things more clearly and break the cycle, you could jeopardise any future relationship with them.

Your letter indicates you are feeling guilty for your behaviour -  this recognition is a good step towards promoting positive change. Start by treating your children equally. Lose comparisons and begin celebrating, rather than criticising their differences, as this will allow you the opportunity to turn things around and create a healthy, happy family.
And finally, sibling love is unique. Who but your brother or sister remembers, the family rituals, the good, bad and crazy fun times -  all those childhood memories that help to bond this special love. Favouritism can ruin a relationship between siblings, depriving them, sometimes forever, of a precious resource. It is one of the best gifts you, their parent, will ever give them: one another.

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In need of further support? Patricia Marie offers a counselling service in Harley Street, contact details as follows