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Fighting the favoritism bug -- one child at a time

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Strong parts for a greater whole

We all talk a great game when it comes to encouraging our children’s individual selves. Most of us coach a great game, too. We talk about helping our children develop self-esteem and confidence as individuals. Sometimes we can lose sight, however, of all the reasons it’s important to do this. It’s not just for a child’s life -- it’s for a family’s life and the relationships within it. Strong parts make an even greater family whole and an environment where anything is possible for every family member. And it helps manage inter-family issues and conflicts, like rivalries and claims of favoritism.

Happy family of four


While most of us encourage our kids in this way almost subconsciously, sometimes it bears active thought. It's stepping back and seeing the big picture -- even on days when we are mired in the details or are knocked over by allegations from our children of less than perfect intentions. How can we, as parents and leaders of our families, continue to encourage our children individually and strengthen our families in the most effective way? It's seeing how the individual trees make up that family forest.

Pride and confidence

It seems a little obvious to say, but it is worth repeating: Helping your child to find his or her individual strengths and supporting interests is a way to boost pride, confidence and self-esteem -- and support a positive family dynamic and interpersonal relationship. Helping your child figure out what makes them tick is a gift to all of you. When the parts of the family are happy and thriving, the greater sum is…greater. You're not just encouraging an individual for his or her present and future life, you're also strengthening a family foundation where everyone feels supported and encouraged -- and supports and encourages each other.

Early interests

When the kids are little, we put them in classes for this or that, usually because it's what we want and what we think is cute. Sometimes the love for the activity is transferred and sometimes it isn't. Forcing your child into ballet of lacrosse or art classes is a recipe for later resentment!

Later quests

Every once in a while, leave out that community education flyer to see if something catches your child's interest. Keep your eyes and mind open to traits and strengths different from your own. Maybe you never took to music, but your child loves to keep rhythm? If it's already clear your child loves adrenaline, is there a trapeze school nearby so you can help them get the adrenaline fix in the safest way possible?

Think non-traditional -- and truly be open to the non-traditional. What is going to make your child's eyes light up may surprise you. And the very different things that each of your children chooses may surprise you as well!

Persistence

It may take your child some time to find that thing that rocks his or her world. You may try a dozen passing fads before one sticks. It may be frustrating for you! It may take much longer than you ever thought. Remember the old saying that life is journey not a destination? It definitely applies here. You and your child can have a lot of fun along the way -- and build your individual relationship in the process.

Yes, it's so obvious -- but it bears repeating. Thinking about the ways in which you encourage your children as individuals with unique interests and skills make for happier kids and happier families.

More on encouraging your children

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