Many parents are guilty of favoring one child over another in certain situations. When one child is more demanding than another, it's easy to let him get his way to keep the peace. But consistently favoring a kid can have ill effects. Not only does the favored child get a false sense of himself ("I'm better than everyone else"), but the kiddos in the background suffer, too.
Favoring one tot over another may lead to intense jealousy between siblings. According to HealthyChildren.org, competition for a parent's attention is one of the main causes of sibling rivalry. Parents should do their best to be fair to every kiddo and to avoid comparing one against the other. If one of your tykes takes longer to get ready in the morning, it doesn't mean the quick dresser is necessarily behaving better. Your sweet slow poke may just have a harder time tearing himself away from his toys to focus on practical aspects of the day. It's okay to praise one child, but don't turn around to your other tot and say, "You should be more like your sister."
A child who sees a sibling being favored may end up feeling badly about himself, as if he doesn't matter to you as much. KidsHealth.org notes the example of a kid who has a seriously ill brother. Although you may not favor your sick child on purpose, he will require a lot of your attention and care. Meanwhile, your healthy honey is left feeling insignificant and angry. Long term, this dynamic may lead to the "ignored" tot developing a poor self-image. While this situation is certainly challenging, talk to your little one about how he is feeling about having a sick brother. Also, devote some time just for him, away from his sick sibling.
A kiddo who feels his parent is favoring a sibling may feel frustrated. Perhaps you tend to side with your younger child during disagreements. "Give the ball back to your sister, John." John meanwhile doesn't think he did anything wrong in taking a turn with the desired toy, although his sister is screaming. KidsHealth.org points out that kids of different ages react differently to situations. So your daughter is frantic over her "stolen" ball and John is certain he is acting fairly. What is a parent to do? Try to understand the plight of both of your kiddos and hear them both out. Their playtime may require closer monitoring so each tot gets equal time with the ball and feels equally important.
A favored kiddo also gets the raw end of the deal. Constantly getting what he wants can turn him into a spoiled, well, you know what. A favored tot may feel he can do no wrong, get an over-inflated ego and fail to recognize boundaries to his behavior. Rather than encourage this unfavorable personality combination, be sure to hold your tot to the same standards as his siblings. If little Mary can't jump on the sofa, neither can he. And if anyone acts naughty while eating out, there is no trip to the ice cream parlor afterwards.