Parents beware the signs and symptoms of playing favorites

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Daddy’s girl, mamma’s boy or grandma’s prince or princess. Those are harmless nicknames, but how do you know when mom and dad are taking favoritism too far?

News 4 spoke with Dr. Pamela Schuetze, a Psychology Professor at Buffalo State College. Dr. Schuetze says it’s not unusual for parents to admit they play favorites.

“Parents are human,” said Dr. Schuetze. “We often have children that we relate to better. They have a personality that’s more like ours or interests that are more similar to ours.”

What can be harmful though, is a child’s perception of favoritism in the home.

Dr. Darci Cramer, a Marriage and Family Therapist, tells News 4 parents need to be conscious of how they treat each of their children.

“We as parents, we feel the way we feel,” said Dr. Cramer. “We can try to mask some of that, but it’s not easy. We have be really self-aware and conscious of the choices that we make and the way we’re treating our children.”

Parents may not even realize they’re showing favoritism at home. It can be as small as always laughing at one child’s jokes or always going to one child’s school events or games.

“If children believe there’s favoritism going on in the family that can create, potentially, some real problems,” said Dr. Schuetze. “It can be hard for the child who perceives that another child is a favorite because there may be some jealousy.”

Sibling rivalry is just one side effect of playing favorites.

While some experts believe growing up with a little competition isn’t a bad thing, too much could create a wedge between siblings that could last a lifetime.

Dr. Cramer says this doesn’t mean children should be treated equally at all times.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that parents should treat each kid exactly equally,” Dr. Cramer said. “It’s unlikely that kids need the same thing.”

Research shows a child will speak up if they’re feeling left out and it’s important not to ignore their concerns.

“I think what’s important is to talk about your child as an individual,” said Dr. Schuetze. “You have these particular qualities that I think are wonderful and I’m so glad you’re my child.”

Dr. Cramer said there’s a trick to parenting, and good parents will know when they’ve struck a happy balance.

“You see kids where each of them believes they’re the favorite of the parents and that means the parents have done a pretty good job,” said Dr. Cramer. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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