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How Not to Let Your Family Revolve Around One Child

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Do you play favorites with your children? Most moms would say, “No! Of course not!” But I know I’m usually more cheerful and sweet with my less-demanding child. I find myself doing more for him and letting him get his way because he’s just so easy. On the other hand, my still wonderful but more complicated child seems to get less of my cheerfulness and less of my patience because we’re more often in conflict.

Now, in some homes, life revolves around a particular child because the child has a special need. Some children can’t help being the squeaky wheel in a family; others can. And sometimes it’s the parents’ doing. I enrolled my older son in theater one summer, which made our entire day’s schedule revolve around drop-off and pick-up. My younger son didn’t have much of a chance to do anything he wanted to do. Are you unsure about whether you play favorites and how to make it right if you discover that you do? Put into practice these 4 steps for not letting your family revolve around one child.

1. Make an honest assessment of how much you give each of your children.

Consider all of your kids and what demands they make on the family, not just your personal schedule. Does one child get special treatment or allowances? Does one child’s schedule preclude another child from doing something he or she wants to do? A friend of mine is a single mom and has a child in baseball. Her daughter has to eat in the car and do homework on the bleachers while her brother practices. It’s a decision they made as a family, but my friend said she can tell her daughter goes along begrudgingly.

My younger son pointed out to me that all of the “essential shared items” in his and his brother’s bedroom (the lamp, sound machine, diffuser, and fishtank) are on his dresser, leaving him no room for his personal stuff. I’ve been dumping everything on him instead of looking at their space fairly. I’m glad he said something because I could tell he felt slighted.

2. If one child is getting shorted or you realize you play favorites, discuss it as a family.extracurricular

Try to have each child involved in the same number of activities or in activities that require the same amount of time and money. Sometimes that’s just not possible. But if you have a child who is always asking to do a new activity, you might need to pull the reins and say no just to try to keep some balance. No one’s going to be happy if you just start canceling extracurriculars, so use our free extracurricular monthly cost sheet and extracurricular time worksheet to put it all in writing and have a discussion.

You could use this as an opportunity to reward your older child with an extra activity and give your younger one something to look forward to. It’s one of the privileges that comes with getting older and having more responsibility.

3. If one child is demanding, obstinate, and inflexible, stand your ground.

Work on teaching demanding kids that they can’t have their way every time. Family life is the perfect place for kids to gently learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Make an effort to avoid asking your compliant child to give in or go along with a more demanding sibling just to end the conflict.

Family life is the perfect place for kids to gently learn that the world doesn't revolve around them. Click To Tweet

I see this happen when we’re picking a movie for our family movie nights. One of my kids has stronger opinions and we often end up watching what he wants. I find myself telling the other one, “Speak up. Don’t go along with it just because he’s arguing. You can tell us why you want to watch this movie instead.”

4. If the situation cannot be changed, get intentional.

Thank the kids who have to be more flexible and praise them for their patience and willingness to go along. Explain that you recognize the unfairness and while life isn’t always fair, you want to do what you can to make things better.

I gave my oft-neglected child some Mom Time Coupons. He might not be comfortable saying, “Mom, I deserve time with you,” but he is willing to hand over the coupons. Most of the time, I’m able to drop what I’m doing and be with him.

Which child of yours gets the most attention and why?


Why do some people get more attention than others?

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