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Unequal love

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DISCRIMINATORY In some cases the child can turn rebellious with comparison
DISCRIMINATORY In some cases the child can turn rebellious with comparison

Do mothers have a favourite child? How do the other children react in such cases? NANDHINI SUNDAR checks it out

How often have you heard a child innocently stating that his mother appreciates his sibling more than him for various reasons? Perhaps the child is not consciously aware of any favouritism. Perhaps the mother herself is not consciously showing any. But many a time it eventually leads to a silent resentment in the child which at times is targeted on the sibling concerned or towards society in general.

While a mother tends to love all her children equally, at times comparisons occur amongst the children with the less accomplished child faring poorly. These comparisons could be conscious as well as unconscious. Conscious comparisons take place when the mother typically believes it to be a source of inspiration, something to be emulated by the less accomplished child.

The film “Taare Zameen Par” is a classic example of a doting mother who loved her younger child no less than her elder son. Though the mother does not blatantly relate to the achievements of the elder child, the silent frustration of failing to raise the other to the same level is evident. When a child is raised in such an atmosphere, does he become resentful and aggressive or does it take a positive turn? Says Dr. Ali Khwaja, Counsellor, Banjara Academy,

“The behaviour pattern certainly cannot be generalised as some tend to become withdrawn and sulk and at times even turn sly. For an adolescent, there is a chance of becoming aggressive, even anti-social, especially if the support system in terms of peers or immediate family like grandparents is not forthcoming. While a child can turn rebellious in some instances, in most cases the impact of such favouritism is not too deep, though there is a fair chance of bitterness being harboured.”

According to him, many a time the mother is not aware of such favouritism and gets defensive when pointed to.

“Even in cases where they acknowledge, the comparisons are put down to an act of inspiration, a role model to emulate.”

Says Vanitha Rao, a mother of two young children, “comparison or favouritism is normally shown by mothers who lack awareness.”

While denying any partial feelings for either of her sons she adds, “They are both two different individuals with individual strengths and weaknesses. I would never like to compare one with the other.”

Says Veena, a teacher and mother of two teenaged children says, “Quite often, prompted by the unconscious comparisons of the mother, there is pressure to perform as well as the sibling.

While sometimes this leads to resentment, there is greater incidence of insecurity and loss of confidence, fear of failure or not reaching the expected standards. When the matter is pointed to the mother, the reaction is normally of shock and remorse.”

Denying any feeling of favouritism amongst her children, she adds that blatant favouritism occurs only among mothers who do not know better. “The incidence of conscious favouring of one child over the other is a rare phenomenon, confined more to those who lack awareness. Mothers biologically love all their children equally.”

While mothers may favour unconsciously, children who have been actual victims appear to have a different take on the issue. Says Rukmini, who had to constantly contend with her mother favouring her siblings over her, “it did make me very resentful towards my mother and to a small extent towards those she favoured. Looking back, perhaps it made me an introvert and less willing to trust easily.”

Concurs Paras, who was also on the receiving end of negative favours from his mother, “it did make me bitter though I do love my mother and bear no resentment towards my siblings. Perhaps the fact that I’m a bit of a loner and quite secretive is because of this. May be it also prompted me to do better than my siblings.”

(The names of some have been changed to protect their identity.) Some ill effects

Severe insecurity

Loss of confidence and fear of failure

They may not be able to reach expected standards

It can leave the child bitter for life

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