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  1. #1

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    If you loved one of your children more than another…..

    If you loved one child more than another…..

    This is an ethical question precipitated by two things: an article addressing this issue and the concept of the truth. My SO and I have differing opinions on the topic of the truth and this question IMO gets to the heart of it.

    If you – for whatever reason short of the kid hitting you or starting fires or truly being evil – you just loved one of your kids less than the others, would you tell them or would you lie about it if prompted?

    My SO believes the truth is paramount so he would be honest and say he loves X child more or the most. While not ideal, I can understand that a parent might really love one child more or less than another, but it is rather unfathomable to me to ever admit that to any of the children. To me, it is the more ethical stand to lie in this case. My SO finds *my* position unfathomable.

    Realizing there is probably no objective right or wrong response, I am curious to hear your opinions on the issue.
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    I think I'd think there was something wrong with me, and go to a counselor to work through whatever issues I had with this child.
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    I don't think it's right to tell your child you love one more than another. There are just certain instances where truth should be kept to yourself so you don't hurt others.

    Also I think it's wrong to love one child more than other, true you may get along with one more than another, but you should love all your family equally.

  4. #4
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    I have family experience with a parent liking one child more than another and being significantly closer to one than another. And you can't lie about this, its too obvious.

    But the idea of a parent loving one child more than another I can't really grasp that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyliefan View Post
    I think I'd think there was something wrong with me, and go to a counselor to work through whatever issues I had with this child.
    I'd agree with this.

    If you love one kid more than another, that's your issue, not the kids'. Why in the world would you tell the less-loved kid that you loved him less? Why would you want to cause that type of damage? For the sake of "honesty"? Who are you helping by such honesty? IMO, telling a kid that he's less loved for the sake of honesty is selfish on the parent's part. It's certainly doing the kid no favors.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyliefan View Post
    I think I'd think there was something wrong with me, and go to a counselor to work through whatever issues I had with this child.
    It is totally normal to have a favorite (you don't get to pick your kids, and usually parents like the kid who is more like who they would pick as friends better), every counselor I've ever met will tell you that.

    It is NOT normal to be explicit about it. If someone actually TOLD a child they loved a sibling more, I would think they were crazy, in the literal- something is not right with them- sense. That is the person who needs to see a counselor.


    (However, if you have issues relating to the non-favorite child, or feel that you are showing obvious favoritism, getting help isn't a bad idea. But you aren't crazy, just normal.)


    I know I am not the preferred child in my family. I don't know if that extends to my parents loving me less, but they have certainly never ever said that to me. I can tell they like me less though- but I think they are just as proud of my accomplishments.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyliefan View Post
    I think I'd think there was something wrong with me, and go to a counselor to work through whatever issues I had with this child.


    Agreed. I'm normally a fan of being honest , but sometimes, there *are* things you should keep to yourself to spare the feelings of someone else. Obviously every situation varies, but I actually think it's a bit self-righteous and inconsiderate to not factor in how "being honest" can affect others.

    I think that sometimes you can 'connect' better with a certain child, or have more in common, but IMHO if you truly love another child more than another (unless it's an extreme case such as a child being a murderer or sociopath) I would think that reflects more on internal issues from the parent that they are responsible for working out.

    I'm not a parent, but I have 3 siblings, and with sibling rivalry and all, we used to bring up the topic of which kid was which parents "favorite" all the time when we were younger.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Smiley0884 View Post
    I think that sometimes you can 'connect' better with a certain child, or have more in common, but IMHO if you truly love another child more than another (unless it's an extreme case such as a child being a murderer or sociopath) I would think that reflects more on internal issues from the parent that they are responsible for working out.
    Right. Feeling more of a connection with one child, I can understand -- but I don't think that's exactly the same as loving one more.
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    I don't think it is that uncommon for a parent to have a favorite kid but I think this is certainly a subject that parents should lie about and try to hide their true feelings. I have seen how that kind of honesty breaks a person and would never wish it upon anyone.

    I have no idea if my mom loves one of us three more, but I have pretty strong feeling about my boyfriend's parent's favorite children...

    AND as other said, having a favorite child does not mean that you don't love all your children as much.

  10. #10
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    I don't think it is ok to say you love one more than the other. I think you could tell one that you liked the other's behavior more if one is in fact loving and giving while the other is selfish or destructive. And you could say that one is "more like you" if their personality really is more similar, but it's needlessly hurtful to tell them that you love one more than the other.
    "The Devil is joining in, and that's never a good sign." Phil Liggett

  11. #11

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    Whether or not you love a child is a more common theme in parent-child relationships, particularly with mothers, than a lot of people think. At least, from clinical setting data. It is very ingrained that parents should love their children unconditionally and vice versa; although, I would hazard it's slightly more acceptable for children to admit not loving a parent(s).

    Sometimes the distinction really comes down to love versus like. Can we sincerely dislike a close relative (like a child or parent) based upon incompatible traits or generally frowned upon behavior, but still love them? How we define love has a big impact.

    Between two children, a parent may develop a better relationship with one child over the other, due simply to compatibility (I would think that's more related to varying degrees of like than love). Parent-child relationships are still relationships and the same rules of the social and personality universe apply. Doesn't mean that the parent loves one more or is making Sophie's Choice.

    I don't think it's fair for parents and children to amass copious amounts of guilt because they dislike the other person for genuine reasons, but it's very frowned upon in society. But, those types of decisions regarding feelings don't tend to come up until both parties are relatively old (i.e., not a child). When a parent doesn't love a child, it's usually more indicative of tangential relationship issues, depression, or problems bonding in the early months of the child's life.

    Sometimes the preferential behavior is quite obvious and there won't be a need to tell the child. If that's the case, there is probably a fair amount of relationship dysfunction going on that needs to be addressed. Honesty is usually a good policy, but in this kind of situation the disclosing party really needs a firm understanding of a) his or her feelings, b) why they feel that way, and c) how and why the child is asking. Depending upon the age, the stage of the relationship, and even the setting could make being honest more or less acceptable. Who knows, maybe that 8 year old you loved least will become your favorite when he hits 30?

    Ultimately, the decision that provides the best quality of life to the child should be made (a very parent-minded concept). There aren't too many times when telling the truth would be better, although there are probably some.
    Sometimes I think I lost something really important to me, and it turns out I already ate it.

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    If asked, I would lie, lie, and lie again.
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    Quote Originally Posted by nubka View Post
    If asked, I would lie, lie, and lie again.
    So would I.

    This reminds me of a smilar situation. I used to work with a woman who was an only child. I always thought she was selfish and a little wacky until she told me that when she was a teenager her Mother told her that she and her Father had not planned to have any children. She had been an accident.

    The last I heard she had just gone through her 3rd divorce and had no children. I can't help but think that if her Mom had kept her mouth shut, her daughter's life would have been different.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nubka View Post
    If asked, I would lie, lie, and lie again.
    I would do the same thing. You just don't tell your child you don't love them as much. PERIOD.

    Now I have 4 kids and don't get along with all of them in the same level. My oldest son is very difficult. He's ADHD which demands so much from me at times I just want to bury my head under the pillow and cry, (not to mention he's about to turn 13 and you know how annoying 13 y.o. boys are!) and our personalities are so different so it's harder for us to communicate. He does know this now but he also knows how much he's loved, he's loved just as much as his brother and sisters. Get the difference? It took him a while to recognize the difference but understands it now. He's actually happier now which makes ME happier. I really don't know how to put it into words.....

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    Would you be speaking to an adult child? Or an actual child? I think it makes a difference. I see no reason not to tell an adult child if he/she asks -- they are probably asking for a reason.

    I don't think it would be appropriate to tell an actual child the truth in this instance.

  16. #16
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    It's perfectly normal to have a favorite or one you like better than the other. I suspect Mom likes my brother more and Dad likes me better (guess which kid is more like which parent.) But they never let it really affect parenting us.

    It's NOT constructive to tell them. And again, the difference between like and love...

  17. #17

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    A mother of fraternal twins here - one of each gender.

    I love both my children dearly but differently. As babies, my daughter was the more difficult child so when dad came home from work, I would "give" her over to him to care for; my son was much easier as a baby, more laid back like his dad. As toddlers, daughter wanted to do everything first - and she did. I was very proud of her accomplishments. Son, laid back child that he was, watched and learned from her. The did it at a later time in his development but usually better.

    Then we hit school. My social butterfly daughter bloomed! my son wanted to stay home-- especially the year in Jr Kindergarten. He eventually got over that to some degree. When it came to school marks, daughter had to work harder at her course than did son and thus came home with better marks. I was proud of them both.

    Then high school hit -- they were 14. Son had some skin problems and was unmercifully teased and bullied. Grades 9 & 10 were a nightmare for him -- well he uses the term hell and at times it seemed so. The two of us grew very close as I worked with him through those terrible times. My daughter seemly sailed through that time, so I thought -- until I read some material that was put on my computer. She felt very distant from me and thought she could do no right regardless of what she did. I was the baddie and she wished she had the gumption to run away from home. I didn't realize how bad all this was because I was dealing with a son who had issues up front, including fantasies of how he would go to the school and make people listen up.

    Then in grade 11, some teenagers took their life at the beginning of the school year. Word went out that those two were just the tip of the iceburg and that there was a pact. My son began to speak of thoughts of commiting suicide. So, another year of dealing with a son who I was afraid I was going to lose. Fortunately, I took some time to explain to my daughter what her twin had been going through since grade 9. She told me she knew about some of it but better understood. It was during that time I apologized to her for not being there as much as I would have liked or as she might have needed. Our relationship at that point took a turn - for the better and I believe we became closer because of it.

    In what should have been the final year of high school for my two, daughter continued her hard work at school winning many awards and scholarships. She got ready to go to school out on the east coast and in the fall, off she went. My son - well depression got hold of him over and over again. After agreeing to stay in high school for another year, thereby postponing going off at the same time as his sister, he told his new girlfriend about his morose thoughts and when she broke up with him, he began a downward spiral -- again. He gave mention to suicide and so we got him in to see a psychologist. After about 5 sessions, he didn't think he was getting much out of them. He did feel he learned enough to manage the dark times when they might come - and come they did.

    This fall, he went off to university about 2.5 hours drive from where we live. I told him that if he ever needs us, we are here 24/7. He finds that he gets melancholy sometimes but allows himself that time to feel it knowing that whatever triggered it will pass eventually. I don't feel like I have to have him check in with me every day; I believe he has the tools and the maturity to see things through.

    My daughter - well we chat on MSN at least a couple times a week. When she comes home we have a "date" where just the two of us go out for a meal. We are probably closer than we have ever been and some of it is because she can see me with adult eyes and adult experience.

    Why did I include all this background? Because even though I have two children and they are twins, they have always been two very different individuals who have travelled different paths. I don't love one more than the other, I don't prefer one more than the other. What I do have are two very different relationships with my children, a very deep and abiding love for each of them but in very different ways. I'm pretty sure that both my children know and understand what I have with each of them is different than what I have with the other, but no less precious because they ARE my children. Gifts from God, but only for a time.

    Sorry for the length ... sometimes I get carried away.
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  18. #18
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    I have two kids and one of them is 20 so I've had them for a while and I have to say that the OP's boyfriend probably hasn't got kids.

    The thing is, how you feel about your kids changes all the times. Maybe one is going through a challenging time and being a total brat and you don't like them very much. But then two years later they are a wonderful companion who shares an interest and you like them very much. In the meantime, the one who was easier is now being a colossal PITA.

    It's stupid to announce during a down time that you like the other kid better. You are damaging your relationship over something transient and there isn't anything to be gained by it.

    Which is not to say you can't tell the one who is not being nice that they aren't being nice. But "I love you less than your sibling"? It's probably not even really true. The love tends to be the same; it's the liking that changes over time.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by GarrAarghHrumph View Post
    I'd agree with this.

    If you love one kid more than another, that's your issue, not the kids'. Why in the world would you tell the less-loved kid that you loved him less? Why would you want to cause that type of damage? For the sake of "honesty"? Who are you helping by such honesty? IMO, telling a kid that he's less loved for the sake of honesty is selfish on the parent's part. It's certainly doing the kid no favors.
    It's not even selfish. It's just mean just for the sake of being mean! "Oh btw, your father and I love little Johnny more." Why the eff would you tell them that??? What good would that do exactly? Especially when your relationship will change as the child changes, and you do as well.

    My older cousin firmly believes he is not the favored child. He has never been able to do anything right by them and has watched his younger brother receive all the adulation for what said brother has been essentially trained to do by their parents. (The father taught the younger brother how to program when he was 12 and they've been working together ever since.)

    He's not a total f*ckup - in fact, he's going for his MD/PhD right now and would surely make any parent proud. But he doesn't particularly like his parents. He vastly prefers his relationship to us (me, my sister, and my mother) instead.

    So if you want that sort of relationship with your kids, go ahead and let them know they're not the preferred child.

    I know that some people think that's not moral, but I have a strict moral code too. I do what I think would be most helpful to someone in a situation. (Or as I just came up with, "DON'T F*CK UP PEOPLE.") What's the use exactly in destroying someone for the sake of your moral code?
    Last edited by Anita18; 01-17-2012 at 04:41 PM.

  20. #20

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    I don't have children, but based on my own experiences, I would never want my children to even have a hint that I loved/liked one more than the other. Not only does it make it impossible for the less favored child to have a healthy relationship with one/both parents, it makes it very difficult to have a healthy relationship with his/her sibling(s).

    My mother obviously favored my sister over me. I won't get into all of the details, but it was something that everyone in the family noticed. My father made a big deal (and still does) to tell us that he doesn't have a favorite, never did. As an adult, I realize how hard this is to do because children do and say things that don't necessarily make them all that lovable. And let's face it--two kids who have the same two parents can and do come out being as different as night and day.

    It took us well into adulthood (and my mother being deceased for almost 14 years) for my sister and I to form what I would call a sisterly relationship. There was a lot of resentment (on my part) and entitlement (on hers). It took both of us years to figure out that opinions and ideas that we had about each other were ridiculous ones that, from a huge degree, formed thru our mother's opinion of each of us. And it took some more years to figure out that its crazy to hold onto that anger/crap, especially since our mother is dead.

    But, I say all of this to say, that as children there are so many things that influence our characters and the way that our parents treat us is paramount. So many insecurities form when a child believes that his mother loves one child more than the other. Children are different, yes, but one is not better than the other. It's like saying strawberry is better than chocolote. Who does that? As a parent, if you have a favorite, or if you really do love one more than the other, do everyone a favor and keep it to yourself or you'll cause irreparable damage to your entire family unit.
    The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are--Joseph Campbell

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