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Does my friend favour her younger child?


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#1 ReginaGeorge

Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:33 AM

I need to preface this by saying that I'm not sure what to do and I really need your advice. Saying nothing now is starting to worry me as I'm afraid that I'm not helping the situation, but enabling the situation.

Her son can't seem to do anything right and he's only 7 years old. I gently try to tell her that he's just a little boy, but she seems to think that because she had it tough growing up, that her son should be able to cope with the things she would do, such as hanging washing on the line and making his own bed. Her younger daughter on the other hand, is the apple of her eye and can do no wrong. I fear for her son, he is withdrawn and he seems so sad all of the time. He doesn't smile in photos anymore. He seems to lash out at small things, like if she tells him he can't watch TV because dinner is ready etc. She doesn't physically hurt the child though, so there is no risk to him physically.

I don't know what to do.

ETA- lashing out at small things is my interpretation. I don't disagree with no TV at dinner time, it's an example of a situation where he does lash out. She tells me these things. I am trying to work out if it's a cry for help or not.

Edited by ReginaGeorge, 10 November 2012 - 10:20 AM.


#2 mumofsky

Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:39 AM

Thats sad. Maybe tell her you dont think she seems happy around him and he seems to be responding, and can you help at all?

#3 B.feral3

Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:40 AM

You will probably get a lot of replies from people telling you to mind your own business. My mother doted on my sisters and was always nasty to me. Nothing I did was ever right and what I did do wasn't anywhere near good enough. It has shaped my self esteem even now (I'm 34).

I know people noticed because as an adult, I have them making comment to me on the way I was treated and my sisters were favoured. I wish they got over minding their own business and told her to pull her head in. She needed to hear it but no one ever did.

Do what you think is right OP.

#4 ReginaGeorge

Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:45 AM

Thanks, I don't know if there are other factors involved. I don't know if she had PND after having him, I don't know if there were bonding issues, I don't really even know all of the situation. We're friends from school, our boys are in class together, have been since kindergarten, but we have struck up a friendship and chat on Facebook. It's so hard to read her.

#5 Cat People

Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:46 AM

I'm not sure what you can do OP.

I'll admit it's difficult not to favour a baby to an older child.  You do have higher expectations once a new baby comes a long.  And babies are so cute even when they are 'naughty'.  Example - 2 year old does something 'naughty', gives you a big grin and runs off giggling.  6 year old does something 'naughty', gives you a sneer, tells you you're not the boss of him, storms off slamming bedroom door.

She sounds stressed out.  Perhaps offer her some time-out.


#6 Oriental lily

Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:46 AM

How sad.

No doubt favoutitism happens in familes all the time.Even with children.

I don't know how receptive and grateful this woman would be with an outsider pointing this out though.
If you do say anything op be prepared for a denial and back lash op.

I feel sorry for the litte lad sad.gif .

Edited by Oriental lily, 10 November 2012 - 09:47 AM.


#7 Soontobegran

Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:47 AM

People will tell you to mind your own business for sure but I have seen the results of this type of favouritism and it is very sad. We all have moments of liking a child more than another which is usually related to behaviour or just the fact that you can 'gel' more with one particular child than the other but this has nothing to do with love and the requirement a parent has to love and nurture equally.
Parents simply should not ever behave in a way that would make a child feel less loved or less important as it will always end up in acting out which compounds the problem.

I also think the verbal and emotional abuse is more scarring than physical abuse at times.


ETA--As to what you can do? Probably not too much, the change won't come until the parent acknowledges the problem is theirs and not their childs.

Edited by soontobegran, 10 November 2012 - 09:49 AM.


#8 Cat People

Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:53 AM

One thing you can do OP is to talk positive to her about her son - talk him up IYKWIM.  Notice 'good' things he does, compliment him, to both him and her eg "I noticed John in the playground today helping another little boy on the swing, he's so thoughtful" "my son said John helped him with his bag today, what a kind boy".

#9 Froger

Posted 10 November 2012 - 09:56 AM

I think it is perfectly reasonable to tell a child they can not watch tv because dinner is ready. In fact I would expect this. I also think it is perfectly reasonable to get a child to do chores around the house. I personally think it is quite reasaonble also to expect an older child to do a few harder chores, as they are more capable of helping.

All of my children except the two littlest ones do their own laundry. This isn't favouritism, but a reflection of their skill and ability level. Same as for bed making. The little ones are not able to do it, so I do it for them. The older ones can make their bed, so they are expected to do so.

There must be more to it than this. From what you have said I wouldn't assume that the younger child is favoured.

#10 bakesgirls

Posted 10 November 2012 - 10:10 AM

Telling a 7 year old to make his bed and do some chores is favouritism? A 7 year old reacting to being told he can't watch TV for whatever reason sounds within the realms of normal to me.

OP, are you sure it's not just a different style of parenting to yours or what you would do? Is it the childs personality to not be very outgoing/happy natured? How old is the younger sister? That could have a big impact on the way they they are treated. I know that I would expect my 7 year old to do things like make their bed, but I don't think a 2 year old could do it. I was also more relaxed with my subsequent children, as it wasn't new territory for me anymore. My oldest though, being the oldest is still 'breaking new ground' so to speak. I know once she has done things, it will be easier for me to allow her younger siblings to do the same things in the future, because what she has done is no longer a new thing for me or her father.

I really don't know the situation, it could be favouritism, but from what you have discribed, it doesn't sound like favouritism to me.

#11 ReginaGeorge

Posted 10 November 2012 - 10:18 AM

Oh no, I certainly don't disagree with the chores or the no TV etc, it's his reaction that worries me. Then how she speaks about him. She never has anything positive to say, so I do actually talk him up, but it seems to fall on deaf ears. When he lashes out, she says "Oh he's so frustrating" I totally get that original.gif My 6yo can be trying too, but I know my son is not capable of doing all of the chores independently and I know that he needs a certain amount of play time. Like I said, I don't know the whole situation. I'm just trying to sort it all out in my head.

#12 mumbo

Posted 10 November 2012 - 10:20 AM

I'm another who sees no hint of favouritism.

We still don't know the age of the daughter??

Edited by mumbo, 10 November 2012 - 10:24 AM.


#13 Alina0210

Posted 10 November 2012 - 10:37 AM

My dad had a mother like that, she had 5 kids and could only love 1 at a time ohmy.gif, and if she didn't love u at the time, you were treated like sh*t....my dad is 67 and it still effects him and his sisters and his mum has been dead for 30yrs....

#14 mumbo

Posted 10 November 2012 - 10:46 AM

QUOTE (Alina0210 @ 10/11/2012, 11:37 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
My dad had a mother like that, she had 5 kids and could only love 1 at a time ohmy.gif, and if she didn't love u at the time, you were treated like sh*t....my dad is 67 and it still effects him and his sisters and his mum has been dead for 30yrs....


With all due respect....We don't have enough information from the OP to know that is what she is like!


#15 WinterIsComing

Posted 10 November 2012 - 11:06 AM

My mother was like that to me, and nothing but sweet and loving to my younger sister. She also used corporal punishment in disciplining me, spanking etc, but my sister was never ever ever hit.

I used to do a lot of chores, which my sister seems to have avoided until she moved out in her mid 20s.

Luckily, my mental health is robust and if anything, it made me quite resilient. I did have a lot of anger issues in my teens etc but life has been good to me, I am very happy in my skin now. But it could have been worse.

She did love me, and was a good mother for me, it's just the treatment was starkly different.

The biggest tragedy is that she denies it and noone ever said anyting to her. Not even my dad. Everyone is still in denial, and my sister doesn't want to talk about it (we reconciled after my son was born, she is a devouted aunt, but most of our lives we were hardly in touch).

Be a good friend and firmly tell her that it is obvious her children are treated differently, and it is bound to traumatise her little boy.

#16 Froger

Posted 10 November 2012 - 11:13 AM

Do you only have one child OP? I'm just asking because you may not realise that if you have two or more children that they may have wildly differing personalities and likes and dislikes. For this reason children often need to be treated differently (the same as you would an adult). It is not favouritism.

For example, I have one child that loves cooking. He will be in the kitchen for hours just cooking and making stuff. I just leave him to it, he doesn't want me hanging around. I have another child who loves to design and make his own clothes. He likes 70s styles so he likes to ask my advice. We can sit and draw designs for ages, then spend a whole day sewing things together. Doesn't mean I favour the second child over the first. Just that our interests converge, and he needs more help than the other child.

The child who likes cooking also likes to read and loves his English homework. He likes to discuss his homework with me and get some different perspectives. We can talk about Keats and Browning all evening. Whereas the child I spent the day with sewing will be in his bedroom playing his guitar. Once again not favouritism, just a reflection on our different interests.

If one child has wrecked their shoes, I don't go and buy every child a new pair. Just the one who needs them. I think this is perfectly acceptable to treat children differently according to their needs.

#17 mumbo

Posted 10 November 2012 - 11:21 AM

Well written SarahM72.

#18 KatakaGeoGirl

Posted 10 November 2012 - 11:25 AM

My response is to mind your own business.

I have two girls, 6 and 8. It can easily be looked at from the outer that the 6 year old is favoured. However it looks like that because she really does nothing wrong. The eldest however has some underlying behavioural issues which we are working through, which means she fights back, can be defiant, depressed, anxious and to be honest I have to spend a lot more time 1-1 with her talking through things because of her behaviour.

So my thoughts are you don't know what is going on behind the scenes.

Also I don't think 7 is too young to help out around the house. My 6 and 8 year old tidy up the lounge every day, clean away all their food scraps, help me with the washing and hanging it on the line (we have a little rack next to the line), help feed the cats and other jobs as they come up. It is just an expected part of growing up - and yes my eldest kicks up a big fuss about it because she doesn't like cleaning. But we are tough on her in that in saying it is part of life and we would rather the tidying up after ourselves come a normal expected part of every day life.

#19 FeralLIfeHacker

Posted 10 November 2012 - 11:33 AM

Chores are normal here?  More is expected of older children here?
I do parent my children differently because some need more guidance than others, some need a little push etc.
Having said that if there is clear favouritism or ridiculously high expectations on one child it is very sad, I've seen the consequences of that and it's not good.
I'd probably mind my own business, what could you really do anyway?  Try to make any contact you have with the boy fun?  Could you take him out and do something nice with him?  If the Mum really is a bit mean spirited to the boy you pointing it out might make things worse for him.

#20 3plusme

Posted 10 November 2012 - 12:03 PM

I would trust your instincts.  You think something is wrong.
I would ask to babysit the 7 year old boy for your friend and just see if there is really anything too it.
It just sounds like he needs alot of positive attention.

#21 Feral Cancerian

Posted 10 November 2012 - 12:12 PM

There is a way you can help without creating any bad feeling.
I was disliked by my mother and what really helped was the positive attention I got from other adults: teachers and family friends mostly. The times I was treated with kindness by them have all stayed in my memory and definitely kept me from going nuts.
Perhaps you could have extra playdates at your house and try to make your friend's DS feel appreciated? Trust me, even a little bit helps.

#22 ReginaGeorge

Posted 10 November 2012 - 12:38 PM

QUOTE (Rawr @ 10/11/2012, 12:31 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
She's not favoring him, no. But you OP, sound as though you are constantly undermining her in front of her child and that is unacceptable. I would toss you out on your ear if you did that to me.


I can honestly say I have never undermined her in front of her children. When I say 'talk him up' I mean that when she says that he is being difficult and refusing to help, I mean that I say "yes my son is like that too" and things like that, no I don't have two kids, but not for want of trying to have more wink.gif It's more to try and normalise his 'difficulty' when she's offloading to me. She isn't a very close friend and I honestly don't know the whole situation. I keep saying this. It's just that my gut instinct is saying something is wrong, which is why I'm asking here. I'm not about to go and report her to the cops or DOCS or anything like that. I'm just seeking advice, some other opinions as to what to do or whether I should try to intervene or if I'm doing the right thing but staying quiet and not saying anything more. Her daughter is 4.

Thanks for your help anyway. I am taking all of your opinions on board.


#23 MadamDivine

Posted 10 November 2012 - 12:41 PM

What I expect of my 7 year old is very different then what I expect of my 4 year old.

My 7 year old is slightly more demanding then my 4 year old as well

Edited by MadamDivine, 10 November 2012 - 12:41 PM.


#24 ReginaGeorge

Posted 10 November 2012 - 12:42 PM

QUOTE (MadamDivine @ 10/11/2012, 01:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
What I expect of my 7 year old is very different then what I expect of my 4 year old.

My 7 year old is slightly more demanding then my 4 year old as well


See that's constructive original.gif Thank you.


#25 CallMeFeral

Posted 10 November 2012 - 12:46 PM

OP it's a sad situation to watch. Would she be open sometimes to a couple of open ended questions, like after she's been off at him...
"Do you think he ever gets sad about how he get's told off so much while DD doesn't?" or "I used to feel so unloved as a child when I'd get scolded and my siblings weren't - they were younger of course but it's hard to internalise that - just made me feel like they loved them more than me..."
or more subtle if you can - try and make it sound curious/conversational as opposed to judgemental. You're after making her think, as opposed to browbeating her into change. Something may 'click' and let her realise how hard she's being on her son and how it would feel to him. TBH it's unlikely to happen - her interaction style with him is probably quite ingrained - but every now and then you do hear of a person actually being able to learn from another perspective, so you never know.

If you don't think that will work, then just be the ying to her yang as far as possible. I heard a talk on the radio once that really stuck with me, it was about extended families and favouritism, and the really good thing, apparently, about extended families is that it tended to balance out the very commonly occurring favouritism (whether in treatment or reality) within the family - i.e. the child may not be their mother/father's favourite but were the special pet of their aunty, or something.
I actually try and use this in my own family - my niece's father (my BIL) is VERY hard on her, unreasonably so I believe, expects a lot of her - but meanwhile lets his son (a year or so younger but VERY naughty) completely run riot. The DD gets in trouble for EVERYTHING - the son gets away with EVERYTHING. It's so sad to see. It's probably why that talk stuck in my mind so much - it made me realise what I could do.
So when she's in town (I wish they lived in the same city) I kind of go the other way - I don't leave my nephew out but I make a special effort with my niece, try to have her over to stay the night, talk with her a lot, just generally try to cultivate a strong one on one relationship with her. It may sound kind of bad - like I'm using favouritism as well (which is something I'd normally try to avoid), and to be clear I am close to him and don't exclude him - I just don't treat him as my 'special friend' type thing (and luckily he doesn't care, he's not really into girls wink.gif ). I guess that's favouritism, but I think in this particular case it's hopefully going to be constructive favouritism - she knows she's the special one to someone, and he's got aunts coming out of his ears anyway so I don't think he'll ever care. Maybe you can be this to your friend's son. Sounds like he'll need it sad.gif




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