Last week, Meridian reader “Curious” asked us how LDS families keep favoritism from creeping into their relationships with siblings and children.  I thought it was a great question, and I expected a respectable response.  That shows you how much I know!

Either LDS families show no favoritism or they aren’t copping to it, because I got a grand total of two responses this week.  That, by far, is an all-time record low.  Needless to say, I was somewhat grateful for the two responses I got!

Let’s see what these two readers have to say, and then we’ll pose another question for a new topic next week.  And readers, if you have a topic you want discussed, please send it to [email protected].  If we keep running through topics at this speed, I’m going to be bone dry by the end of the month.

Here are the two responses to “Curious” on the subject of favoritism:

I’ve noticed the whole idea of favoring a certain child backfires.  The one that is favored is not liked much by the other siblings and it really isn’t the child’s fault.  When parents obviously favor one child in a family, it hurts that child and his relationship with the others.

Anonymous

You’re right, Anonymous.  When there’s one “Golden Child” in a family, the children who don’t measure up and don’t know why they don’t measure up can develop a resentment against the favored one, as well as hostility toward the parents who have favorites, and even hostility toward themselves for not being good enough.  Favoritism is never a good idea.

At least, that’s what I thought before I read the next letter:

In my family growing up, my brother was favored.  Over and over.   It was never done intentionally, but still it happened.   So I have worked very hard to avoid it and stop it when I see it.   

Although I believe what Elder Oaks said in a talk recently — that favoring a child who does what he should do is no different than when the Lord favors his children that obey him — I defend, support, cheer, and appreciate a child who may walk to a different drum and may not get the praise of my husband or the world.  

I also make it a point to develop the best relationship I can with each child.  We do things that depend on their and my shared interests. I try to always find time to listen to things that are important to each of my children.   I tone down lavish gifts when they are not fair or warranted.   I also encourage my husband to also seek out things to do with each of our children.  For him, this is easier with some than others.  But I encourage it for each. 

It isn’t easy.  But the results of favoring are hard on everyone.  Kids who are favored get a warped idea of how life will treat them.  And kids who are overlooked can become cynical and mean.   

You can help your underappreciated niece by making your niece feel special.  Explaining may also help her understand it is not her fault.  She needs to know that she is not responsible for being overlooked.  I dare say the princess will hit a wall soon enough and need to be able to readjust her outlook on life.  My brother had to change his major in college, and then spent years in humbling employment situations because he thought he was smarter and better than he really was.   Finally now in middle age he is getting the picture. 

Experienced 

Experienced, it hadn’t occurred to me that the Lord can and does favor his children who love and serve him, even though the scriptures clearly state that.  Elder Oaks certainly has insight that the rest of us overlook!  Thanks for bringing that up.

I really liked your comment, “I tone down lavish gifts when they are not fair or warranted.”  If you  missed Meridian’s cover story on Friday, The Parenting Problem Called Entitlement,” there were some chilling stories in it that showed what happens to even little children when they are given lavish gifts that are not fair or warranted — and this occurs even when one child is not being singled out as a favorite.  Do yourself a favor and read that article, readers.  It’s a real eye-opener.

Since the topic of favoritism burned out before it even got started, a Meridian reader has an entirely different question to pose to all of you.  Here it is:

In our family, R-rated movies (and lots of PG-13 movies) are out of bounds. But what about books? In filtering books that our children read, where should we draw the line between just plain bad versus safe exposure to what they’ll be learning about later without a parent nearby?

Flummoxed in Florida

As a person whose nonmember mother passed on a lot of eye-scorching literature for me to read when I was a teenager, I can attest that there’s some pretty grubby stuff out there for young people and old people to read.  Parents, how do you draw the line in your family?  Are your children allowed to read whatever they choose, or do you screen their books just as you do their movies?  Enquiring minds want to know!

 If you have any responses for Flummoxed in Florida — and I hope you do — please send them to [email protected].  Put something in your subject line to indicate your letter isn’t spam.   Remember — we want to hear from you.

Until next time — Kathy

 “Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb,science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.”

 Barbara W. Tuchman