The answer is the eldest, according to news reports last week.
A new study found 70% of mothers and 74% of fathers say they prefer one of their children above the other or others.
So how true are their findings?
Ask any parent if they have a favourite and invariably the answer will be a resounding ‘no’. In fact, most parents would be shocked and insulted the question could even be raised.
Obviously, each parent can only answer from their own point of view and I think most people would be less than truthful. After all, admitting you have a favourite opens up a massive can of worms and what parent would bring that upon themselves?
But here’s the thing, I think we all have a favourite, I certainly do, but it changes, often several times throughout the day. But, by and large, there are certain things I do with one child that I wouldn’t dream of doing with another. For example, I went to the Edinburgh Festival last year with my middle daughter. My son would have been bored to the back teeth and my eldest daughter would have been rather scathing of some of the performances we saw. We had such a good time, we’re going again this year.
There are certain characteristics about each which I find more endearing when compared to the others. My son’s room may stink of teenage boy, but when I ask him to do the hoovering, he pretty much does it straight away, unlike his sisters who generally whinge and moan so much I often end up doing it myself or yelling like a demented banshee.
There are other things they do which I detest. The eldest, for example, has a habit of trailing her life like crumbs in the woods so we end up with hairbrushes, make-up, notebooks, laptop and socks scattered throughout the house, but particularly the living room. Now she’s away at uni for two-thirds of the year, I find this habit of hers even more irritating. ‘We don’t live like this anymore,’ I find myself screaming, ‘the others don’t do this’.
When it comes to TV, I favour watching political programmes with the eldest who has incredible insight, factual or scientific programmes with the youngest who has a terrific thirst for knowledge and dramas with the middle one who has an appreciation for the theatrical.
My daughters would no doubt tell you, the youngest is the favourite. This isn’t actually true but there is sound evidence on which they base their claim. Like most boys, my son was a handful, a ball of boundless energy and a tendency to act before thinking to the point we wondered whether he had the capacity for rational thought. Consequently, he was always in trouble, but constant reprimands were not good for either of us, let alone the sanity of the household. Thus, I chose my battles and inevitably there were plenty of things to which I turned a blind eye. The girls interpreted this as favouritism because he ‘got away’ with actions which I never tolerated from them. In fact, I simply didn’t have the energy to be constantly at loggerheads and I am sure there are plenty of child psychologists who would tell you continual negative feedback to a child is a complete ‘no, no’.
However, my expectations of each of them is exactly the same, it’s nothing short of exceptional.
The study questioned 768 parents from 384 families with two parents and at least two children not born more than four years of one another. The researchers found parents were also most likely to favour the eldest child with younger siblings reporting issues such as low self-esteem. Whilst the study didn’t ask which child was favoured, with a higher proportion of younger children reporting low self-esteem as a result of the favouritism, it was assumed the eldest was the favourite.
Researchers reported to have been somewhat surprised by the findings as they were expecting the younger child to be considered the favourite with the eldest feeling they were treated unfairly.
I often joke that one or the other is my favourite. ‘Such and such is my favourite because they made me coffee’, ‘You’re well and truly out of the running for favourite because you’re behaving like a spoilt brat’.
I think we treat all of our kids differently because they are different. We like different things about each of them and there are times when we’d gladly pack their bags and send them to live with the grandparents. But whilst we favour different things about each of our children, the crux is, undoubtedly, we love them equally.