I visited a family and was interacting with the children. The father of the kids instructed the elder daughter get him something. She conveniently passed on the message to the house maid and was standing there, talking to me. This is a young child of maybe, 13 years. The father got irritated and pulled her arm, and asked her to do the job without delegating. He actually pulled her up in front of me for passing the message on.
The child was a little upset, but I feel this behavior of the father is quite often done. He seems to keep instructing his elder daughter to do things and also keeps harping on her weight. She has some puppy fat, though she plays vigorous games with her friends.
I have found this father always making such comments, which he feels is funny. I do not think he realizes the impact this has on his daughter. While with his younger daughter, he is very loving. He is demonstratively loving. He hugs her, cuddles her, and kisses her. She would be running and playing, suddenly he will grab her and kiss her.
He hugs her a lot. Obviously he loves her a lot. But I have not seen him do this to his elder daughter. Maybe he did it when she was younger, and he will continue to hug his second daughter till she grows a little older. I do not know. But I found it disturbing, his outward pouring of love for his second daughter while he expects his elder one to do a few chores.
He makes fun of her academics too. While he is amazed at his second daughter’s grasp of English language. The elder one is also a good linguist, she knows English and Hindi. She also knows her mother tongue and is very comfortable using all these languages, as well as the local language. Does he have selective observation?
Parents are to celebrate the uniqueness of each child and give unconditional love to all the kids. Responsible parenting would be teaching the appropriate way of functioning. Here penalties too will be levied. A misdeed carries a penalty. The children grow up respecting rules and peoples’ feelings.
But if a parent is found discriminating, then there can be problems among the kids. One who is pampered can use the situation to wield revenge on the other sibling. In most households, when the second child is born, the elder one is expected to behave in a mature fashion. The parents themselves will fight, argue and have several conflicts. They cannot be mature about their relationships, but they expect a child to be. Ironic, isn’t it?
In some households, if there are three children, the middle one is expected to play the role of younger one by deferring to the eldest most often, and play the role of the elder one by deferring to the youngest one, most often. This child has a raw deal, he/she is expected to respect the feelings of the eldest and pamper the feelings of the younger. Where does this child get respect and love?
Are parents ignorant of the damage they are inflicting on the child? I know of a case where one son was given in adoption to a relative. Whatever the reasons behind the adoption, this young boy is aware who his biological parents are. He has a younger brother with them. He feels lost and unloved, he feel rejected by his own parents. He is a bundle of contradictions and I do not think he has had the opportunity to resolve this. It is a great burden on his mind and soul.
In many ways having a single child is better. It becomes difficult when there are two or more. Then the balancing act has to be fair and each child has to feel cherished and made to feel he/she counts. Rejection of any kind can skewer the psyche of any child. This child can in extreme cases, even resort to unlawful activities. The rejection can go very deep into the child’s soul.
I have tried talking to the father mentioned above, but he dismisses my hints. He does not feel he is discriminating. Maybe his daughter will be better able to answer that question.