“My sister and I would come rushing into the house, anxiously looking for our mother around the house to show her our test results. My sister’s would read 95% dawned with a golden star, whilst mine read 80% with a measly “good job!” Our mother wouldn’t show it but she was particularly proud of my sister which always made me feel like I was falling short. It went on even into our adult years.” says Aobakwe Moagi
Admitting to having a favourite child is almost a taboo in every family even though most parents and children are always privately aware that there is a golden child and a black sheep in the family.
Tefo Setlhare a social worker under social welfare at Gaborone City Council says often times favouritism by parents is not pronounced. “Most parents don’t come out and say I prefer this child over this one. It starts with little things like kid’s school work; parents will praise one child and mock the other over the same thing. The approach is different and this affects children. Often times children who feel like they are less favoured grow up with low self esteem and less confidence; they tend to see themselves as inferior. Even as adults they seem to grow apart and not really get along well.”
Setlhare says parents should know that what a child becomes in life is at the end a result of their grooming. This is borne out by Aobakwe Moagi, a debt collector at Furniture Mart store in Gaborone.
Aobakwe says she does not get along with his sister because her mother played favourites. “Growing up, I always felt like I was second best. My sister was always the star child who got good grades and did everything perfect. Even when my mother was asked about any of her children’s milestone or achievement she would always praise my older sister only. I stated harbouring feelings of resentment towards my sister and my mother. ”
Aobakwe says she has daughters of her own and doesn’t favour one child over the other. “I love and show my children equal affection, though growing up I might have felt somewhat inadequate, I never want my children to feel that way.”
A large number of parents may show signs of favouritism towards one child over the other either by, spending more time with the other, giving them more affection, more privileges and less abuse.
Parents might spend more time with and feel closer to opposite-gender children than to same-gender children. In mixed families, parents favour their biological children over step-children. In patriarchal cultures, parents simply favour boys over girls
Favouritism has been there for many years and there are a number of reasons why parents do it. Birth order ÔÇôparents tend to favour first and last born children mainly because middle children will always be home hence first borns get all the privileges and last borns get all the parental love.
Gender also triggers differences in treatment. Many parents are disappointed to get a girl, still which is why boys get away with a lot because they are expected to be boisterous and troublesome but this is often felt inappropriate for girls. Girls tend to be warmer and less aggressive than boys; therefore parents generally favour daughters over sons (but mostly in non-patriarchal cultures).
Parents are even more likely to play favourites once their children are grown up therefore supporting toxic family changes such as sibling resentment and rivalry. Parents still favour daughters and less deviant children, but they also give preference to children who live closer, share the parents’ values, and, not surprisingly, have provided the parents with emotional or financial support.
Kagiso Kgosiemang works as a Guidance & Counselling teacher at Gaborone West Junior Secondary School says favoured children don’t always have it easy growing up “Favoured children may feel a sense of entitlement, and that rules do not apply to them. It can also affect the way they act in school, at work, and in their friendships, but the reverse can also occur. Favoured children may experience anxiety and insecurity, both during childhood, and later on. This is because children are instinctive and observant. They know when they are getting praise for things they have not earned, such as being your favourite. For this reason, they know, and fear, that these things might be taken away from them at any time, for any, or for no particular reason.”