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When parents have a favourite child

By Harriet James
Wednesday, July 21st, 2021 00:00 | 4 mins read
Every child is unique and parents should strive to treat all children equally. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Many parents deny liking one of their offspring more than the rest. However, this is a reality in a number of homes. MERCY ACHIENG shares her experience being her father’s loving daughter and how it affected her character and relations with her siblings.

Mercy Achieng is her father’s favourite child. While her mother was strict and a no-nonsense woman to all her siblings, her father was tender towards her in particular.

The second last born in a family of six became aware of this at the tender age of five. 

“I remember he used to favour me a lot. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling it’s because I’m emotional.

He would always say that I was like an egg. I used to cry over small stuff and he never wanted to disappoint me,” narrates Mercy.

Mercy recalls how her siblings would ask for stuff and her father would tell them there was no money, while for her, it was always a ‘yes.’

She recalls instances when they would walk with her dad and whenever he saw a nice thing, say a pair of shoes on display, he would buy it and tell her to wear it before her sisters noticed that she had a new shoes. 

Mercy further recalls  how she desired to go to a boarding school and though her father wanted her to join a nearby day school, he gave in to her demands.

“My father would visit me and hug me with so much joy. He never visited my other siblings,” she says.

 When Mercy was in secondary school and wanted a smartphone, her father did not complain, but went ahead and bought her a Techno P5.

“I was ready to move in with my boyfriend at that young age if he refused to buy me a phone,” she recalls.

Mercy adds: “When my mother saw the phone, she was angry and told my father to stop spoiling me because it was making me a hard-headed child.”

When it came to punishment, she would get away with a lot while the others would be scolded.

“No one would lay a hand on me as my father would reprimand them. No one questioned my decisions and he always defended me when someone came with an accusation against me,” she says. 

Things got worse when Mercy passed her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education unlike her siblings who didn’t manage to attain good grades to join university.

Her father’s job contract ended, hence he couldn’t finance her university education.  To date, he still blames himself for not taking his favourite daughter to college. 

After secondary school, Mercy admits that she had a boyfriend who would even visit her every weekend against her mother’s wish. But her father turned a blind eye and let her do as she pleased. 

“I got pregnant in 2014. The first person I run to was my father because I knew he would listen.

I knew that my mum would lecture and even beat me up as she had already warned me.

I had moved in with my boyfriend, so my father insisted that I go back home, but I was afraid of what people would say.

He never looked down on me and would send me money while living at my boyfriend’s house because he knew that we were struggling and that we were young,” she recalls. 

Serious effects

While all children should be treated the same, there are some parents who find themselves favouring a child either consciously or subconsciously due to many factors.

The common one being birth order where either the older or younger child is given preference above the rest.

Other reasons could be based on gender, maybe when the child is the only girl or boy or is younger than the rest.

Other times it might be personality, maybe the child has a warmer temperament than the rest or listens to instructions or the child reminds you of a favourite relative or a deceased parent. 

“Favouritism exists in family and it’s normal. But how you handle it is the elephant in the room,” says child psychologist Pilie Ndiang’ui 

Pilie adds favouritism can have a serious and negative consequence within the family and amongst the children leading to sibling rivalry and family conflict.

The siblings of the favoured child can also have a low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and even teenage substance abuse.

“Many children are able to detect whenever one of them is treated better than the other.

This fallout can be long lasting and can be carried forward even in adulthood.

The lack of parental affirmation to other children may leave a permanent void,” says Pilie. 

For Mercy, this favouritism was sadly noticed by her siblings who sidelined her and never involved her in their plans.

“My elder sister got a job for my younger sister despite the fact that I desperately needed one. 

My siblings also get along and make plans and never include me. I only get to hear about them much later,” she says. 

Now that she is a parent, Mercy admits that though she loves all her children, her little boy is her favourite.

“I try so much to fight the urge of showing it to the little one because I know the impact it might have on him in future,” she says. 

Pilie urges parents to always be aware of the fact that their heart can be drawn to a particular child and it’s human nature. 

To counter the feeling, she advises parents to be aware that every child is a masterpiece and is an individual with unique needs, interests and personality.

“Avoid comparing your children or judging or setting them up to compete against each other by considering one to be better than the other. 

In addition, never make one child set an example for the rest. Make a conscious decision to know and appreciate their individual differences, temperaments as well as achievements as they are a piece of you.

Ensure that you are present and available physically and emotionally for each of them individually,” says Pilie in conclusion. 

Harriet James

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