Monday, October 31, 2011

The favorite child: How a favorite impacts every family member for life

By Ellen Weber Libby

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.

This is an excellent book.  The reason I picked it up is simply because I felt I fit into her category (a favorite child).  I knew that of the three children in my family (I have an older and a younger sister), I was my mother’s favorite (definitely not by father’s — my father’s favorite was my younger sister.

This is a highly readable, well-organized, very insightful, well-researched, illuminating book, that is full of specific examples (case studies) from Libby’s thirty years as a clinical psychologist and her 60,000 hours of treatment of and for her clients.  You read, in some detail about families, parents, their children, and sibling rivalry.  Very engaging.

Personally, I think my anointment as a favorite child fostered precisely the traits Libby discusses: ambition, self-confidence, power, and a desire to serve.  I consider myself fortunate to have escaped some of the destructive dispositions such as a sense of entitlement and exemptions from the rules governing everyone else.  In my life, which may well be (and is likely to be) an exception, I feel I have capitalized on the positive traits of ambition and self-confidence that I have truly earned what I have accomplished (without entitlement and without exemptions).  Also, my family contributed substantially to my upbringing and the balance they provided between the constructive and destructive traits.  Libby writes about this at the end of her book when she said, “The importance of open expression of feeling and honest communication with these families [where balance occurred] was valued” (p. 273).  Of course, one example (my own) proves nothing.

We all grew up in families, thus, there is information here that applies to everyone.  If there is a thought that some of the information may not apply, then, to be sure, the material offers tremendous insights into others and why they behave as they do.

“Favoritism,” Libby writes as her final paragraph, “is normal in families.  Being the favorite child has benefits for the child as well as for society.  The burdens accompanying favoritism are also substantial but can be mitigated by respectful relationships among the adults who are in a position to influence the growth of the child.  In taking on this challenge, the challenge of bringing up children with the confidence and power inherent in being favored while also holding these children accountable for their behaviors, parents contribute positively to the characters of their children—our future leaders in all spheres of society” (p. 273).

Not only does the paragraph above give you a sample of her writing, but it demonstrates the power wielded by favorite children and the value of contributing parents and families to the growth of their children.  This is a valuable book that makes a substantial contribution to understanding family dynamics.

This book is available at The favorite child: How a favorite impacts every family member for life

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