Do you play favorites with your grandchildren? Even if you answered “no,” your behavior may be sending a different message. As grandmas, it’s important that we don’t favor one grandchild over another because it can have long-lasting effects on both the favored and the less favored child.
A young mom recently complained to me that her in-laws are neglecting her six-month old daughter while they shower her two-year old male cousin with attention. They take him for sleepovers and buy him gifts but they haven’t done that for her daughter. When all the families get together, the grandparents focus more attention on the little boy than the little girl. The mom feels bad and worries that her daughter will notice the favoritism when she’s older.
There are different ways to look at this situation. If we cut the grandparents some slack, we could say that they’ve had a longer time to get to know their grandson, which is always what happens with a first-born child. I wrote about unintentionally favoring my first-born granddaughter after her younger sister was born simply because I never got any time alone with the baby. As they’ve gotten older, I’ve had more opportunities to have one-on-one time with my younger granddaughter. I’ve also made a conscious effort, which has been encouraged by my daughter, to make sure I acknowledge each of their unique qualities.
I encouraged my friend with the six-month old daughter to share some of her feelings with her in-laws because they may not be aware of their behavior. Ask them if they’d like to spend some quality time alone with the baby so they can get to know her. It’s also important that the mom not project her own hurt feelings onto her daughter when there may not be a problem.
Sometimes it’s hard to feel equal affection for each grandchild, but it’s critical that you don’t show it. Be aware of your behavior and ask your grandchild’s parents: “Am I playing favorites?” It’s better to hear it from them than to bruise an innocent child’s ego.
Susan Adcox, of About.com Grandparents, explains that there are two types of favoritism—fixed and fluid. Fluid favoritism is more acceptable because it is based on circumstances rather than a fixed preference for one child. One child may get more attention from grandparents because he or she is geographically closer, or has health problems, or shares a grandparent’s interests. Those circumstances can, and frequently do, change. But a grandparent who has a fixed preference for a certain grandchild can do damage to the other grandchildren.
Whenever possible, carve out some one-on-one time with each of your grandchildren and, as one wise grandma friend says: Really love the one you’re with!