Have you ever played the most dangerous parenting game? Let’s be honest, we’ve all been tempted to play favorites, but the destruction it causes will decimate your family. Today AMBrewster discusses how to root out and destroy favoritism in our parenting.
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Good day, friends, thank you for joining us today on our 60th episode.
I know, there’s nothing inherently exciting about 60 (I suppose I should have done this on our 50th episode), but I’m praising God for allowing us to continue publishing these episodes. I also can’t thank my Team or you guys enough. You’ve been great, and I’m looking forward to continuing on this parenting adventure with you for a good long time.
And I also want to say that I’m very thankful for Nicole. She’s shared our podcast on her Facebook a number of times and had this to say to her friends, ”Calling all parents! If you want biblical help in this crazy awesome amazing responsibility of parenting — if you long for advice and counsel and a 'manual' — check TLP out! This podcast is changing my life! LOVE IT!”
Those words are so beautiful because God’s number one goal is to change lives. Amen!
I also communicated with Nicole recently because — as some of you may have seen — TeamTLP has produced some beautiful photo quotes that you can check out on Facebook and our new website: www.truthloveparent.com, and we have a special opportunity we like to extend to anyone who’s reviewed us on iTunes or Facebook.
Sometimes we use stock photos for the smiling faces you see across our webpage, but many of those pictures are from actual listeners and their families.
So, if you leave us a review on iTunes or Facebook, and you’d like to submit an image for us to consider for your photo quote, you can make the review and then email us at TeamTLP@TruthLoveParent.com.
We love to share your comments and reviews, and we love to feature your family — you know — cause that’s what we’re all about.
But, anyway, let’s jump into today’s topic entitled “A Parenting Game You Absolutely Must Not Play."
Hopefully we all play games with our kids. My children love Carcassonne and Dominion, Alhambra and Qwerkle, and our three game cabinets are getting crowded.
However, there’s a very dangerous game that parents like to play. I see it far too often in my field, and it has a lot to do with the series we just finished.
If you’re new to us or you didn’t catch The Four Children, I strongly encourage you to listen to each of those shows. We took five episodes to discuss the Parable of the Soils and used Jesus’ insight to better understand the four responses our children can have to Truth.
It was an amazing study for me.
Anyway, as our children grow, develop their own personalities, and start to exhibit the behavior and beliefs we saw in The Four Children, it becomes increasingly easier for parents to . . . well, honestly, to play favorites.
1. The Reality
The reality is no parent likes to admit it, but most of us have struggled with favoritism, or at least the temptation. Statistically speaking, one to two-thirds of parents actually admit they prefer one child over the others. For those of you who can’t imagine this, please understand it’s an especially huge temptation when you have one child who seems to be the epicenter of trouble in your home.
And we need to be really real right now. It’s hard to like our resident Terrorist as much as we like our angel child because some children are just an emotional and spiritual drain.
And — if you’re a parent of a cherubic infant who can’t believe anyone would suggest they don’t like their child — please understand that the physical fatigue we often feel in parenting is nothing compared to the spiritual stress that accompanies a Terrorist Child. I don’t say that to downplay anyone’s parenting stressors — having an infant is a huge responsibility and harrowing endeavor, in fact, having children of any age is unique and challenging and can introduce stressors of all kinds — but I want to make certain that no one on either side of the fence discounts the very real temptation we will all one day face to prefer one child over another — especially when we have a trouble-maker.
I also think it’ll be easier for us to be honest and open about this if we define favoritism accurately. If we’re not careful, it’s extremely easy to see favoritism as that anathema activity that we would never participate in. But be careful. Be honest. Favoritism can be displayed in any and all of the following situations.
You find yourself giving more affection to one child over another. I’ve caught myself doing this on a number of occasions and berated myself for it. My daughter is this cute little snuggle-bug of seven. My son is now ten, and though he still likes to hug and kiss and cuddle, his size is becoming a little awkward. Add on top of that the cultural stigma of a dad kissing his son, and you have a real issue I’ve had to counsel myself through. It shouldn’t be a problem, but it creeps in from time to time.
You give one child fewer consequences. Sometimes this happens because you’ve matured as a parent and realized you were doing things the wrong way with your older children. However, too often our cute little mischief-maker manages to get away with things they shouldn’t because, well, “she’s only two.”
You spend more time with one of your kids. This is something of which we really have to be careful, and we’re going to discuss the possible motivations behind it in a moment.
Or perhaps you find yourself providing more little gifts and privileges to one of them.
2. The Struggle
But let’s talk about why this is a such a real struggle. It really does make sense. If you think about it, our culture — as supposedly inclusive as it claims to be — really is about setting up barriers. Now, don’t get me wrong. This is often important and necessary. Separation is a vital biblical doctrine that’s ignored to our great peril. However, we need to acknowledge that in nearly every social construct, we’ve been trained to discriminate. At work we’re assigned to project groups of like-minded and skilled people. Our favorite sports teams sometimes determine our closest circle of friends. We even break our Sunday School classes up by age. Again, not that any of this is necessarily bad, but we’re so surrounded by our relational pick-and-choose society that no one should be surprised that it can be a temptation in our own homes.
And think about it, even if our society didn’t do such a great job teaching us to compartmentalize people and flock with similar feathers, our sin nature would do it anyway. Our elementary teacher may have paired us up with that boy we didn’t like for our science report, but we won’t play with him at recess.
Not only that, but marriages in our world are far too disposable. We go all through high school believing that when our boyfriend or girlfriend annoys us enough, we just break up and find another. Don’t like someone? Don’t worry, there are plenty of other people with whom to spend your time. And too many Christians carry that thinking into their marriages.
So, it’s no wonder that all of us struggle with being drawn to one child over another — even if it’s only occasionally. Here are some very common reasons for parental favoritism:
So, what are . . .
3. The Consequences?
I don’t want to take too much time with it, but most of us are probably familiar with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s failed favoritism. Abraham preferred Isaac over Ishmael, and not only did it almost kill the mother and child, but it’s played into the single greatest issue in the Middle East today. Isaac should have learned from his father’s poor choices, but he preferred Esau over Jacob while his wife preferred Jacob and even went so far as to instruct her child to lie to his father. And instead of learning from his father’s and grandfather’s sins, Jacob preferred Joseph (and later Benjamin) over his other sons. And that was a seriously messed up family — in part — because of dad’s favoritism.
This is because playing favorites always hurts more people than you realize.
First, it obviously hurts the child being neglected. This child can perceive the differences in the way they’re treated — even if it’s subconsciously. And it always breeds bitterness which can lead to eventual hatred and rebellion.
Second, we all know it hurts the kid being discriminated against, but it also hurts the child being favored. Sometimes the favored child doesn’t recognize what’s happening. However, more often than not it gives them a skewed sense of reality. They start to accept the fact that they receive special privileges because of who they are. And this, in turn, promotes pride and a sense of entitlement.
But the pain doesn’t stop there. Favoritism hurts your spouse. In families where both parents favor the same child, the husband and the wife are feeding and empowering the wicked behavior of the other. In situations where both parents are guilty of favoring different children, it causes a rivalry between the parents. This is probably the most common consequence. However, if one of the couple is a mature, God-honoring spouse, they’re often hurt by the fact that their husband or wife is undercutting the strength of the family by giving in to this temptation.
And, of course, favoritism hurts the parent who’s playing favorites. Jacob was so tied up in his love for Joseph that when his daughter, Dinah was raped by Shechem he didn’t do a thing about it. In fact, he seems quite content to allow Shechem to marry his daughter.
Favoritism is a sin, it’s a lack of love, it’s a form of hatred, and it can make us callous to the genuine needs and desires of our kids. And when it comes to the devastation cause by favoritism, please know that the scars can last for years and years.
So, let’s discuss . . .
4. The Victory we can have from this temptation.
So how do we overcome this issue and avoid the family destruction? Let’s take them one at a time.
What’s the cure for the I-Like-You-Because-You-Don’t-Cause-Trouble favoritism?
It’s soooooo hard to love people who are unkind to us, but in His most famous sermon, Jesus tells us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Mature individuals don’t play favorites because they love unconditionally. Anyone can get on well with someone who treats you well, but true maturity loves those who hate us.
What’s the cure for the The I-Like-You-Because-You-Accomplish-More favoritism?
In James 2 we’re told that our partiality is just as wicked as adultery and murder. James says, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. 13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”
The reality is that when we treat people differently because of their superficial superiority, we’re judging with evil thoughts. And then James tells us that the seemingly inferior person is actually the type of individual that God can often use because they’re not full of themselves.
In addition, the apparently superior child so often takes advantage of others and us because of their high-mindedness. And then he tells us that the sin of partiality causes us to be guilty of all of the commandments from adultery to murder. And the final admonition to us to avoid partiality by being merciful. A simple definition of mercy is that we do not give people what they deserve. This could be understood to mean that we don’t treat people lowly simply because they are. If both our children did their best, there’s no reason we should treat the one who received lower grades any differently.
What’s the cure for the I-Like-You-Because-You’re-Like-Me favoritism?
I don’t have a specific passage for this point, but I simply want to observe the life of Christ. His entire earthly ministry was serving people who were nothing like Him. Not only did He live and serve and preach to and heal and teach and save and die for His creations, He spent most of His time with the lowliest of His creation — lepers and beggars and fisherman and prostitutes.
Who are we to choose to spend more time with our child simply because we have more in common with them? As parents, God’s called us to serve our families, not be served by them. In order to fight this temptation, we need to grow in our humility.
And lastly, what’s the cure for the I-Like-You-Because-You’re-“Mine” favoritism?
In John 17:23 Jesus prays to His Father, asking Him to unify His adopted children in love, and He makes the observation that the Father should do this “That the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
Did you hear that? Yahweh, our almighty Heavenly Father loves us with the same love He has for His Son! The Bible talks much about how born again believers have been adopted into the family of God. The picture here is startling. It’s not that we’re biological or spiritual members of the family of God who have been estranged, but are now back in the fold. No, we are outsiders who have been graciously grafted in. We’re spiritual orphans who’ve been adopted . . . and God the Father loves us with the same fierce intensity that He loves the second person of the Godhead!
The principle I want us to see here isn’t simply that we should be loving — though it would solve all of our problems to love like God does — but to be unified in love. It doesn’t matter if your child is biological, step, foster, or adopted, you can love them with a unifying love that has nothing to do with blood ties. In fact, we talked a little bit about this in episode 13, “Parenting Blood to Water.” There we discussed that our spiritual bonds far outweigh our genetic connections.
So, how do we overcome the temptation to favor one child over the others?
First, we need to love them all as God loves us. Even though we were enemies of the King, He loved us enough to sacrifice His greatest gift.
Second, we need to avoid partiality by learning to be merciful — which is not relating to people according to what they can do for us. Praise God He doesn’t immediately give us what we deserve.
Third, we must grow in our humility. Only then can serve our children as God intends. Isn’t amazing that the all-powerful Creator of the universe was the most humble man in history?
And lastly, we must have a love so powerful that it unifies us. This doesn’t mean we allow sin — God forbid! But it means that our children know that even when they sin, their parents love them with all of their hearts and no less than anyone else. This is true of us because the Father looks at His redeemed children and sees the sacrifice of Christ.
In conclusion, I want to plead with you to search your hearts. Ask your spouse, in fact, you can even ask your kids if any of them have ever sensed that you had a favorite.
Lord willing, it’s not a temptation you’ve given in to, and if you have, hopefully no one’s noticed.
Either way, it’s something that needs to be turned from, and if anyone in your family has been hurt by it, please humble yourself, ask their forgiveness, and start today to be the loving, merciful, humble, and unifying parent God’s called you to be.
We hope our episode notes at TruthLoveParent.com will be a blessing to you, so we linked them in the description. Please know that our site is not yet fully up and running. We’ve started rolling out some things here and there as we strive to make TruthLoveParent.com a hub of all things Christian parenting. So, enjoy what we have and look forward to the more that’s coming.
Also, we’ve talked a lot about Failure Philosophies on our show, but I’ve never taken the time to really define what they are or how to deal with the ones that’ve sneaked in under our radar. That’s why I’m really looking forward to our next episode which is called “Are There Failure Philosophies in Your Home?” We’ll talk about the types of Failure Philosophies to look out for and how to address them if you find them.
And don’t ever forget how loving, merciful, and humble God has been with you. He’s worked in miraculous ways to unify you to Him. Now channel that same love to all of your kids.
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