Having three toddlers (all boys) is fun – and challenging! We all know the narrative, right? Boys are hyperactive and highly physical when they play. Getting bumps and bruises, both them and us, during our playtime is normalcy in the family. Boys are loud and cannot seem to run out of energy throughout the whole day – literally the whole day!
Since our kids are of different ages, we are compelled to treat them separately according to their mental and emotional conditions. Apparently, we can no longer carry our 9-year-old in the same way that we carry our 2-year-old. As a homeschooler, the subjects of our 5-year-old are totally different from our 9-year-old. My wife and I, whether we like it or not, will have to treat our boys differently according to their age.
One thing that we avoid as we treat them individually is favoritism. We do not play favorites among our kids. This may sound easy. However, putting it into practice is really difficult. As I’ve said we have to treat them differently according to their age. In doing so, we have to be very careful in drawing the line so that we will not go to the extent of displaying favoritism.
Playing favorites among your children can be very devastating. It will have an adverse effect in the long run. I was reminded of the story of Jacob and Esau. Their parents favored one over the other. Genesis 25:28 reads:
“ 28 Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
The father favors the eldest while the mother favors the younger Jacob. And as the story unfolds in the subsequent chapters of the Bible, you will see the disastrous effect of playing favorites among the siblings. The brothers were rivals for most of their growing up years! And though they eventually reconciled, it may be possible that they could have been spared from suffering the consequences of their “sibling rivalry”. Isaac and Rebekah could have done well in parenting and in showing equal love among the twins.
How can parents avoid displaying favoritism among their children? Here are some of the ways that parents may practice to avoid any impression of favoritism in the family:
1. Do not spoil your kids – Children will feel that parents play favorites when one of them gets something and another does not. Usually, this “something” is in the form of a “want” like toys, excessive clothes, or an opportunity for leisure and amusement. Even if you are financially capable of equally giving your children these bonuses and perks, remember the word “excessive”. Do not excessively pamper your children. If you cannot draw the line of being excessive, better limit the giving according to their needs.
2. Do not compare – Never compare your children with each other especially if they are of different ages. One’s ability may be totally different from the other. Siblings are unique and different from each other. Learn to treat them according to their unique characteristics and individual learning curves.
3. Discipline them equally – Actions and behavior will either result in reward or discipline as a consequence. Impose discipline on all of them when necessary. Do not spare a younger child while enforce discipline on the older child relative to the same incident wherein both of them displayed behaviors that need to be corrected. Your children must understand that actions, regardless of age, have consequences.
4. Assure them of your love – When children see and feel that all of them are important to the parents, any sense of favoritism is not possible. Hug them, kiss them and spend time with them. What my wife and I usually do is that we separately spend a “special time” with each of the kids apart from the time we spend with the whole family.
5. Raise all of them loving the Lord – Our children need to understand that we do not play favorites primarily because God sees all of them as precious and valuable. As such, their proper response to God and to each other is not one of envy or insecurity but obedience, humility and love for their Creator.
Parents must be wary in displaying favoritism whether consciously or unconsciously. Do not spoil or compare your children with each other. Apply discipline among all of them. Expressly assure them in the confidence of your love. Rear them towards loving and obeying the Lord.