Now, I am not condoning murder, or child abuse!
I’m just saying children, whether they are your biological/adopted children, or your stepchildren, can drive you crazy almost faster than anyone else. Doesn’t mean you are a bad person because you wish they would just go away for a week, or a month, or just move out entirely. So, please, stop torturing yourself because you don’t have warm and fuzzy feelings about your children – or your stepchildren. It is also quite common for parents not to like their children, or to like one child, but to dislike another. Once again, I am not advocating favoritism. I am bringing this out into the open so we can deal with it, like the adults we are.
Believe me, if you find yourself in this predicament, even if you don’t admit it to yourself, it is glaringly obvious to your child, and to the rest of us, too.
Why? Mostly because with the child you don’t like, or you have problems with — (There’s a reason for the term “problem child”) – everything that child does or says irritates you, and with the child you like you behave as if she is just adorable and amusing. Her mistakes are just endearing.
You might say this doesn’t apply to you because there is a reason you are always annoyed by young Fred. Fred doesn’t do his chores; he doesn’t think of anyone else but himself; he picks on the other child (that you like – wonder why); he lies, he gets sick every time there’s a test at school, etc. etc. Yes, it’s easy to find reasons why Fred is annoying, and he probably IS annoying. And you ARE the parent, and you are supposed to prepare Fred for real life, and you are just trying to help. Fred is a teenager but he is also human. (Yes, I know, the jury is out on that one.) Would you like it if you had a job you could not leave for whatever reason, and your boss was on you constantly about everything you do wrong, and everything you need to improve upon? No, you would not. Because you are trapped in that job. And your boss never seems to notice when you do something right. And it’s unfair. Yes, it is.
It is up to you as the adult in the room to stop sending this message:
“Everything you do irritates me. I need you to change before I will accept/love you. You are a disappointment.”
I’m sure you don’t come out and say those words, but that is the clear message you are sending, whether you realize it or not.
Instead, change your relationship with Fred by letting him know you like him. Yes, there are still consequences for bad behavior and unfinished chores. But you think he’s kind of a cool kid. You think he’s smart. You think he’s funny. You think his perspective on life is interesting. You actually enjoy spending time with him. You can do this! Find one thing about Fred that you can genuinely admire. And point that out. Start acting like you’re on his side for a change. It will make all the difference. Fred now has your good opinion of him, and that is valuable to him, no matter what he says. He is going to be more interested in what you have to say if he thinks you like him.
How can you convey the message that you like/approve of Fred? Light up when you see him instead of acting like you are barely able to tolerate his presence. Before you correct him, let him know you understand that he’s got troubles and it’s not easy. Validate his perspective. For example, instead of pointing out why it most certainly is fair that his younger sister gets this or that, start the conversation with something like “I can see why that would not seem fair from your perspective. You didn’t get this or that when you were her age.” Then you can explain the situation. This will not diminish your authority. It will let him know that you respect him as a person. The more you act like you like Fred, the easier your relationship will become. You get to have your feelings too. Don’t wallow in guilt because you secretly prefer one child. That is just human. We all have preferences. It doesn’t mean you don’t love your children/stepchildren. However, make a decision to make all of your children welcome in your life and house. We all need to be made welcome, and to feel accepted for who we are, even when and maybe even especially when we are annoying teenagers. Now, I know you didn’t act that way when you were Fred’s age, but I bet if we asked your parents, they might point out that you weren’t perfect either. You don’t have to be perfect to be loved.