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Is family favouritism a taboo meant to be broken?


A mommy blogger named Kate took a "deep breath" today and decided she was finally "going to share." This is what she shared: "I think I love my son just a little bit more than my daughter."

The admission was made in a post Tuesday on Babble, a parenting website.

In the post, she goes on to say of her three-year-old girl and 20-month-old boy, "I love them both, don't get me wrong.

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"It's just that, well, it's somehow easier to love her son, she says, who is a "snuggly kid," unlike her daughter, who is a "very independent, challenging little girl."

Candour like this is rare, so it's worth quoting at length:

"The thing is, in the day-to-day life, I find it easier to gravitate towards my son. I'm more patient with him. I'm less likely to get angry with him (though I do, if he does something he shouldn't). I'm more likely to pick him up and snuggle him, or to get something he asks for quickly. I'm less patient with my daughter, more likely to fight with her or refuse to get her something for no good reason (which she doesn't make any easier by literally asking non-stop until I say "Enough! The answer is no!"). These are really on my worst days though … on my better days, my normal days, I make more effort to try to be fair to both."

Many commenters praised the honesty of the post, and thanked the writer for discussing such a taboo issue.

Ellen Weber Libby, a clinical psychologist in Washington, D.C., and author of The Favorite Child, has taken issue with the notion that having a favourite child is one of the biggest taboos in parenting.

"NOT admitting to having a favourite is," she wrote in an article for Psychology Today last year. "Denying what is true can be disturbing to everyone in the family, making everyone feel a little crazy and eroding healthy family relationships."

She went on to note that "the vast majorities of moms describe having a child whom they prefer and who receives special treatment, and still, parents have a hard time admitting that they favour one child over others."

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Perhaps that's because, as Dr. Libby says of one study on the subject, "favoured and unfavoured children are vulnerable to depression because there is tension associated with being chosen, as well as not being chosen, by the parent important to the child."

To her credit, Kate admits in her blog that favouring her son over her daughter is wrong. She knows this, and as she writes, "I just keep hoping that I can be a better parent … it's not fair to love my son more."

What do you think: Is this a subject parents should talk more openly about?

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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