Can you love all your children the same?

It’s hard to love all your children equally. Why this is so and when it becomes a problem.

Every child is different – and changes over time. What would be more unfair than the equal treatment of unequal people? Smaller children need more cuddles than larger ones, for some cuddling is the greatest thing, for others it’s the best thing to do, and they get very stiff when you want to hug them. Almost all parents feel more connected to a child in different phases of the family history. Some dads, who are afraid to wrap a baby, fall head over heels in love with their four-year-old daughter. And then retreat when the childlike, uninhibited twelve-year-old suddenly matures into female beauty. Different feelings and different treatment of the children are completely normal, natural and appropriate – who would talk to a one-year-old like an eleven-year-old?

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Love children equally – when the bad conscience comes

But inevitably the bad conscience comes up when one or the other of the siblings gets more. Many parents already feel guilty when they are moved by a spontaneous, loving surge of emotion towards one of their children, which they do not overcome with their brother or sister. What to do? Don’t stroke him over the head now? The children register the glow in the eyes of mum or dad when the secret darling approaches. So press the other sibling extra hard? Count the kisses immediately and divide the chocolate with the letter scales?

To love all children equally is hard.

It is more sympathy, understanding, similar likes and dislikes in play when the relationships with each child are different. “All idealizations are detrimental to the living togetherness of people,” says children’s therapist and author Wolfgang Bergmann, advising serenity: “Neither do children always love their parents the same, nor do parents always have to love children the same. In emotionally healthy families, underground love doesn’t stop – even if a hyperactive child can drive you mad for half a year.” In reality, the children know exactly what their parents’ love is like – no matter what they keep affirming. They have fine antennas for their parents’ feelings, the real ones, not the ones they claimed. And when they are insecure, they put these feelings to the test and loudly demand to get the same as their brother or sister. From the children’s point of view, just is the same as equal, but true equality can sometimes seem unjust. Each sibling is born into a different family: the number of family members changes, the parenting style changes, and the economic situation is different when each child arrives. After all, the children are very different.

That’s not fair!

Why we often don’t love our children right away

Even if the parents once started with the firm intention to love all children equally, they will always find out resignedly that this is not possible at all. The father feels closer to the little curly head with the funny ideas, because he himself was like that as a child, in the serious little girl the mother recognizes her own way of looking at the world. That makes it easier to live together, doesn’t it? Maybe mother and daughter or son react to the same kind of humour and can communicate without many words. This can bring a lightness into the relationship that keeps feelings of love and closeness flowing. The opposite also happens: The scatterbrained father who complains that his son forgets everything…. The belligerent mother who, in the nagging of her youngest, cannot help but recognise her own scolding or, even worse, that of a quarrelsome aunt who once tyrannised the whole family. When parents perceive qualities in their children that they reject in themselves, this sometimes slows down love quite a bit – who can stand the fact that their mistakes reappear in others? The only thing that helps is to look firmly at the (always present) good sides of the child and to become aware of how great the child is in other respects.

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Youngest child often attracts sympathies

Often father and mother can build the best relationship with the child who has the same position in sibling order as they have. Often it is the youngest child to whom sympathy is directed. Or an instinctive need to protect the weaker child leads the mother to take the side of the little princess and severely admonish her big brother, the carnival boxer. Whether the preference for a child becomes a problem depends on how difficult the relationship with the other children is. Every love changes – parental love is no exception. But parents gain a lot of leeway for their own feelings if they can free their love for the children from the clutching of a debt of equality. >> Read more: Taboo topic favourite child

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Christina Cherry
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