Friday, September 15, 2006

Playing Favorites

I made this throw-away comment in this post:

Parents with favorites, favor the one they think is most like themselves. The favoritism reveals hatred for their spouse.
MaxedOutMama, whom I much admire and hope to meet some day sooner rather than later, said she was intrigued and wanted to know what I meant.

Like I said in the post, they were some "not so deep thoughts" and I hadn't spent lots of time considering that particular thought. Now's the time to clarify. It gets a little complicated before it gets clear.

What we dislike most in ourselves we project on others. The "other" in most relationships is the spouse. Rather than "own" or make peace with our fears, weaknesses and less desirable traits we get angry with our spouse when he or she exhibits those traits. Some times we project our weaknesses on him or her completely.

For people self-unaware, this process can be entirely unconscious. It takes a certain amount of awareness and maturity to acknowledge weaknesses.

Enter children and unevolved parents. The child who favors the parent's positive traits gets favored. The child who, from the parent's perspective anyway, displays the disliked characteristics is shunned.

Another related dynamic I've seen is to favor a boy or girl because of unresolved childhood issues. For example, women who have been sexually molested who favor their boys over their girls because they fear for their daughters and detach from them to cope with unconscious fears. Another example: a man favors his daughter and coddles her and bullies his son trying to make him "tough" because he, the father, was bullied as a kid.

Generally, love is thrown to the child who demonstrates the trait the parent admires and loathing is thrown to the child who demonstrates traits the parents is uncomfortable with or despises.

Very often, the unfavored child will hear things like "you're just like your mom" or "you're just like your dad." Those statements reveal the parent's projection and unresolved anxiety around specific characteristics they have. Rather than deal with issues or resolve the conflict with the "offending" spouse's behavior they will use their children as proxies for their fight. This especially happens with kids of divorce.

So, that's what I meant (I think--still processing) by the statement.

Favoritism by a parent is terribly destructive. Many parents who believe themselves to be paragons of neutral virtue would be shocked if they asked (by anonymous, blinded survey to get accurate results) their kids if they favor one over the rest. Without fail, kids know who the favorite is.

Both the favorite and the less-thans suffer. It is a no-win for the favorite kid because the other siblings envy him or her (or they can--remember poor Joseph almost killed at his jealous brother's hands?). The least favorite can grow up wondering "what's wrong with me?"

A healthy family has the parents aligned together and the kids aligned together, with parents in charge guiding the family as a team.

Like I said, random thoughts. That'll learn me.

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