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A Quarter of All Moms Confess to Having a Favorite Child

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"Hey!” both my sisters shouted, half-glaring at me over my mother’s shoulder. It was Mother’s Day 2008, and I’d given Mom a card I couldn’t resist: it said “FROM YOUR FAVORITE CHILD” on the inside.

Funny, right? (At least, if you aren't my sisters.) But I may have been onto something.

Last month, Parenting joined forces with HLN’s Raising America with Kyra Phillips for an uncensored look at moms’ most revealing confessions. Together we surveyed more than 1,000 readers, viewers, and social-media fans from around the country to get the scoop on how they really feel about parenthood.

One dirty little secret we uncovered? Almost a quarter of us have a favorite kid, or have to squelch an urge to play favorites.

Sure, these feelings may not make us feel like Parents of the Year. Yet emotions like those are normal, says Bonnie Harris, MS Ed., a parenting specialist and author of When Your Kids Push Your Buttons.

“It’s natural to be a little more attached to a certain child, if he gives you more,” she says. “Maybe he’s more affectionate than his siblings, or shares your interests, or is just plain easier to raise and makes you feel like a great parent.” 

Plus: When Parents Play Favorites

Her take? Don’t feel guilty — but don’t broadcast your preference, either.

“It only becomes a problem when you’re unconsciously playing it out, like muttering, ‘Why can’t you be more like your brother?’” she says

Our survey also uncovered a guilty secret on the opposite end of the spectrum: More than 35 percent of us sometimes wish our child was more like someone else’s kid. Most frequently, we wonder why he isn’t as well-behaved as one of his pals. Other yearned-for traits include being more outgoing, more talented, brainier, and (eek!) less geeky. 

“We always want our children to think they’re the apple of our eye,” says Harris. And, she adds, we see our children as a reflection of ourselves—if they’re coming up short in some department, we feel we’re at least partly at fault.

Luckily, there are ways to appreciate and enjoy the child you have instead of wishing he were different. For starters, “Understand that you’re not 100 percent responsible for how your child is, or his success in life,” Harris says. “Yes, maybe it would be easier for him to fit in if he were an athlete, but you can’t necessarily change him, and it’s not your fault.”

Acknowledge too that you’re probably idealizing his ‘perfect’ friends. “You’re only seeing them some of the time—who knows how they are the rest of the time, or with their own parents?” Harris points out.

Also, stop to ask yourself whether you’re projecting some of your own childhood wants and needs on your kid.  “If you wished you had more friends when you were little, and your child has just a couple of pals now, you may think she’s a misfit. But maybe she’s the kind of person who’s fine with a small social circle,” Harris explains.

Plus: Study: Favoritism's Sinister Side

Lastly, try to spend more one-on-one time with your child, getting to know her on her own terms.

“If you’re disappointed because she’s a tomboy and you love shopping for girly clothes, maybe you can find another kind of shopping to do together, like for cool sports equipment,” she says.  “Finding what you have in common, and building on it, is the key to making a different and better relationship.”

We'll explore a new topic--from breastfeeding to spanking to money and sex--everyday this week here on Parenting.com, but be sure to tune into Raising America (check local TV listings) daily for even more juicy revelations from our survey! Click here for the full results of the survey. Click here to make your own confession!

 

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