Favoritism Among Children

Posted: March 7, 2011 in Islam
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As’salaamu Alaikum Wa RahmatAllah Wa Barakatuhu

(Allah’s peace, mercy and blessings be upon you)

My brother is the only one in the house who gets any attention. He always gets everything he wants!” My Dad prefers our oldest sister to the rest of us. He always praises her, and no matter what good we do, he never appreciates it!

This is a common problem that we see today. And that is the problem of favoritism among children.

Parents may show their favoritism for many reasons. Favoritism could be shown to the oldest or the youngest. It could be a preference of a son over a daughter or the preference of a child more beautiful than the other or simply for no apparent reason at all.

Favoritism comes in many ways. It could be in the form of showing more affection to a child, or excessive praise of one to the neglect of others, giving gifts to one child only or giving better, more expensive gifts to one child in preference to others. It can even be favoritism by simply ignoring one child as compared to the others.

Islam condemns all kinds of biases and injustices and indeed, favoritism is a kind of injustice. A person is not being just if he shows favoritism.

Verily, Allah enjoins justice, and doing good, and giving (help) to kith and kin. (Qur’an, Surah an-Nahl:90)

Justice must be maintained in everything, even in how often we look at or speak to each of our children. The following Hadith shows us how important it is to avoid favoritism when dealing with our kids.

Nu’maan ibn Basheer said:

“My father gave me a gift of some of his wealth, but my mother, ‘Amrah bint Rawaahah, said, ‘I will not approve of it until you ask the Messenger of Allah (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) to bear witness to it.’ So my father went to the Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) to ask him to bear witness to the gift. The Messenger of Allah (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said to him, ‘Have you done the same for all of your children?’ He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Fear Allah and treat your children justly.’ So my father came back and took back that gift.” (Bukhari, Muslim)

In fact, it is one of the rights of our children that we treat them equally. The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said:

Your children have the right of receiving equal treatment, as you have the right that they should honor you. (Abu Dawoud)

And he (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) also said:

Do justice among your sons (kids), and repeated it thrice. (Muslim)

Why is it wrong??

Showing favoritism is wrong no matter how you look at it. It is injustice to the child who is being neglected, it is injustice to the one who is being preferred over the other and it is even injustice to the parent showing the favoritism in the first place.

Showing preferential treatment to one child over the other siblings nurtures a kind of jealousy and even hatred in the heart of the one being neglected. And as the experts tell us, this may lead to various psychological and social problems that can last well into adolescence and adulthood. While the one who is always preferred and praised over the other may think he/she is somehow superior or better than others and lead him/her to being arrogant and spoiled. And surely that is not fulfilling our responsibility in raising our children in accordance with the way Islam requires us to raise and educate our kids.

The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said:

There is no person to whom Allah has given responsibility and dies neglecting that responsibility, but Allah will deny him Paradise . (Muslim)

The parent who is showing this favoritism is not being just to himself either since he is supposed to be fair to all his children and is answerable to Allah as to how he treated his family. By showing favoritism, he/she is being sinful and not fulfilling his/her duty as a parent according to the teachings of Islam.

The Prophet (Sal Allaahu Alaiyhi wa Sallam) said:

Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock…..A man is the shepherd of the members of his household and is responsible for them. A woman is the shepherd of her husband’s house and children and is responsible for them……Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. (Bukhari, Muslim)

Are you one of them?

Many mothers and fathers who show preferential treatment to some of their children do so without realizing it. They do so unconsciously and if asked about preferring one child over the other, they will immediately deny it. However, since it is a matter about which one will have to answer to Allah one day, each of us parent has to sincerely look deep into our soul to see if we are guilty of this injustice.

O you who believe! Ward off yourselves and your families against a Fire (Hell) whose fuel is men and stones… (Qur’an, Surah al-Tahreem:6)

Therefore, the Muslim parent is the one who fears Allah in his dealings with his children, one who is just in his speech and judgments. His sayings, actions and dealings with his children are based upon justice with no degree of discrimination or preference.

The just will be with Allah on thrones of light ….those who are just in their rulings and are fair with their families and those of whom they are in charge.(Muslim)

How to Avoid Showing Favoritism Among Children

Favoritism in the family is a big concern. When a certain sibling is singled out as a favorite. This can cause resentment and feeling of rejection, among the other siblings. Sometimes you may have shown favoritism, without even recognizing it. Outlined in my article, you will find, the types of favoritism and how to avoid them.


Things You will Need:

  • Accepting that you are wrong.
  • Willingness to stop favoritism.

1      Favoritism:

Showing favoritism, to one child over the other, can leave your child feeling neglected and unwanted. Show equal attention to each sibling. It may be hard, if a child is unruly, but most times the child is just crying out for more attention.

2      Buying gifts for one and not the other:

This may sound trivial, but in the mind of a child it is not. A child can grow up resenting his parents for showing his sibling preference over him. Indulge the other sibling in the joy of receiving a gift.

3      Spoken words:

Be careful of the words that you say to your child. Certain words can leave your child feeling worthless and can even lead to suicidal thoughts. Remember that once a word is left from your lips, there is no way that you can take it back.

4      Achievements:

If your child achieved something, give him the praises that he deserves. Children are sensitive, he will notice, if you are giving all the praises to his sibling.

5      Comparison:

Comparing your child to his sibling, can cause a buildup of resentment. It also can cause low self-esteem issues further, in life. Every child is born with his own personality and traits, accept him for who he is.

6      Scolding:

Avoid sparing one child from a scolding, while giving the other a scolding. This would not be fair to your child. Everyone should be scolded fairly.

7      Raising your children in a home free of favoritism, is best for the whole family.

A home with a loving environment, and free of favoritism, will produce adults with less psychological issues.

Tips & Warnings

  • Show your children equal love, in the home.
  • Giving one child his favorite treat and denying the other child can leave your child feeling, less special. Share equally.
  • Don’t spend more time with one child and less with the other.
  • Avoid showing constant admiration for only one child.
By Asma bint Shameem

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