Ways You Might Act Unfairly When You Have Multiple Children

On occasions, we're unfair to our children without realizing it, favoring some over others. It's important to become aware of this and rectify our behavior.
Ways You Might Act Unfairly When You Have Multiple Children
Elena Sanz Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz Martín.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

When you’re the mother of more than one child, one of your priorities is to be fair with all of your children. You try to offer everyone the same amount of time, attention, and love. However, it’s difficult to act impartially all of the time since many of the times when you act unfairly, you might not be aware of it. Sometimes, they even come from your best intentions.

Fortunately, this situation can be reversed by paying attention to the way you act. Reflecting and carrying out a self-analysis that allows you to check when you’re favoring one of your children over the others. Many times, it’s the children themselves who alert us to what is happening, transmitting their discomfort and disagreement. When this happens, it’s necessary to listen.

Kids need to feel unconditionally loved and accepted by their parents. Hence, as you know, the consequences of having a favorite child can be important for the emotional development of siblings. Up next, we’ll point out some unfair situations that may need reparation so that you can act accordingly.

Ways You Act Unfairly When You Have Multiple Children

Ways you might act unfairly when you have multiple children

You identify more with one of them

Besides being parents, we’re also people. Therefore, although our love for all our offspring is infinite, it’s normal to feel more affinity towards some of them. It may be that you feel more identified with one of your children because that child is of the same gender or because their character is more similar to yours. Thus it’s easier for you to understand this child.

This is something completely normal and it wouldn’t have much consequence as long as this identification doesn’t lead you to position yourself solely on the child’s side. If, in general, you tend to favor the child with whom you identify the most, the rest of your children will notice it and the relationship with them may suffer.

You side with the “weak” one

Another frequent situation that occurs in families with several children is that parents tend to defend and benefit the child they perceive as weaker. Either because the child is the smallest, has some kind of disease or condition, or simply because their personality is more submissive. Parents may feel such a need to protect this infant that they may end up acting unfairly.

Consider that whenever you do something for your children that they can do for themselves, you’re doing them a disservice. Positioning oneself on the side of the “weaker” child will generate suspicion among the siblings and will impede the development of the child’s autonomy and self-reliance.

You fall into manipulation

Sometimes, children of the same family can have very distinct personalities that lead parents to treat them unequally. When one of the siblings has a more docile and noble temperament, while another is an expert in manipulation, it’s easy to fall into the trap.

Ways You Act Unfairly When You Have Multiple Children

The latter will tend to resort to crying, complaining, and victimhood to get away with fraternal arguments. The child will have seen how these strategies lead to gaining favor with the parents and will not hesitate to implement them.

Without realizing it, parents may end up agreeing with the child who makes the loudest noises, cries the most, or laments the most without having had time to listen to both versions of the story.

As a result, the calmer child will generate a great feeling of frustration and helplessness; as the truth is not prevailing and the parents make the mistake of believing and rewarding the sibling who manipulates the situation.

Why you might act unfairly as a parent

Paradoxically, at times, we act unfairly precisely when trying to be fair. This is the case of parents who also buy gifts for siblings on the birthday of one of their children. Or those that allow all the siblings to go to bed later or come home later when they aren’t the same ages.

Fairness doesn’t always mean offering exactly the same to all of them. It’s about adjusting our actions to their age and specific circumstances. Being a parent isn’t easy and it’s normal to make certain mistakes. The fundamental thing is to become aware of them and know how to rectify them.

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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.