Latest Stories

Can you treat your children equally?

Any parent who claims that he/she can is in denial. You cannot love them equally, but you can love each one specially


In the movie “Two Weeks,” I can’t forget what Sally Field told her children—“I cannot love you equally, but I can love you specially.” She said this when asked who among her four children she loved most.

Field played a middle-aged mother who was dying of ovarian cancer, and in her remaining two weeks, her grown-up brood flew home to be with her. In a video meant to be her goodbye to her family, she was asked this question.

I’ve remembered Sally Field’s line since then. It is one that parents can keep in mind, especially the parent who’s bold enough to claim that one can love one’s children equally all the time. In reality, loving your kids equally is tough to do, even impossible sometimes.

I believed my mother was always a biased parent (for my brother; we’re only two), and I thought that she could have been more egalitarian—until I became a parent myself. Then I realized that a parent, honestly, can’t treat his/her children equally—all the time. You usually attend to or lavish attention on the child you feel needs it most.

I think that any parent who claims that he/she loves his/her children equally is in denial. Nobody can claim that fully, in the same manner that no one can say with finality that one has been a fully successful parent. A successful parent of a toddler, then of a teen, a young adult, an adult? Parenting never ends—why does one realize that late in the day?

Mommy’s boy, daddy’s girl

You will not run out of cases of “unequal parenting.” Start with clichés—mommy’s boy, daddy’s girl. Who isn’t one of either? It’s true—mothers spoil their sons to death, and are extra protective of them. Fathers are the same with their daughters. Things would have balanced off ultimately—except that mothers usually have the last say, and Filipino dads have a way of deferring to or leaving mostly every family decision to their wives, so if you’re a daddy’s girl, good luck just the same.

My friend is the only girl in her brood—yet the mother dumps all the responsibilities on her, even as she cuts her sons some slack.

In another example, the parents, wittingly or not, have made the family life revolve around the needs and whims of one of their children, ever since that child survived a serious illness, neglecting the other kids in the process. That would have been understandable, except that that lopsided parenting carried over into the adult years of the children. Such overprotective parenting has left that favored child the least independent in the brood.

If we go into the topic of inheritance or distribution of assets, we will never run out of examples of disparity and inequality. Perhaps every family or clan has such an example, and every family has, at one time or another, suffered the consequences of inequality. Many, especially those of big estates, land in the news headlines and society gossip columns. Assets are hardly ever distributed equally and fairly, and so are responsibilities.

A doctor-friend noted that from what he’s seen of his patients, siblings don’t necessarily share equally the responsibility and costs of looking after a sick parent. “Often, only one or two is left paying the bill. Hardly is it ever equitable,” he said.

What I like to believe—and what I myself try to practice—is that parents try to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their children, then work from there. They develop their children’s strengths, capabilities and talents, and try to make up for their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. They attend to whoever is weak and vulnerable, and who they feel needs caring for.

So how can one try to parent one’s children equally?

 Equal opportunities

For starter, give your children equal opportunities—from the basics to education to everything else, down to giving that mobile phone. This will always be a work in progress. Even after you’ve sent them through school and set them up, your role as a parent doesn’t really end.

If you favor one, at least don’t be brazen about it, and in the process, hurt your other children. Sometimes children bring their hurts and deprivations over into adulthood. “Mom did that for her, but not for me,” I remember a friend, now all of 45, telling me what her mother did for the favored sister—when they were kids.

Try to know your children’s strengths and weaknesses, and work from there. You can build on their strengths and talents—be it in character or skills (Sports? Math? People skills?). You can help them overcome their weaknesses or compensate for these. For instance, you try to protect more the son or daughter who is bullied in school. When my sons were in elementary school, I was vigilant more over one—who could fall prey to bullies—than the other, who was feared by bullies himself.

Know your children well—who they are and what they can or cannot do. I guess this is what Sally Field’s character meant—treat each one special.

If you cannot treat them equally, at least try to be fair. It’s hard to do this every moment of your parenting life, but at least give it your best shot. Sense of fairness, a sense of generosity—these are values you pray your children would have, and they could, but only if they see it practiced in their environment, starting with you.

Tell your children to watch out for each other, today and tomorrow. The one who can stand up to bullies should protect the one who’s always been bullied—this is what I always tell my sons.

If you’ve not been able to treat your children equally—and parents hardly could—at least your children should try to make up for your lack, in their adult years. This is how things balance up in life ultimately.

Love is never perfect. A parent’s love is far from perfect. It is a work in progress.

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: child rearing , Children , Daddy’s Girl , Mommy’s Girl , Motherhood , PARENTING , Parents , Relationships , Sally Field , “Two Weeks”

  • FireEngine

    Of course you can. Being from the receiving end, of the 5 of us siblings, none was loved more or less than the other, no matter how good or bad we individually were.

  • Anton Bautista

    I have held the belief that I do not believe in “hating kapatid” having grown up with three other brothers. And When I become a parent, I believed that I loved my children differently from each other.

    When I was told that I should love and treat my Children equally, I always said that is impossible, unrealistic and actually wrong. Each have their own unique traits and to treat them the same would be to deny their uniqueness. I treat them as I feel they should be treated. Each according to his/her own unique individuality and identity.

    Imagine If I were to treat my son the way I would my daughter, or my thirteen year old the way I would my three year old. One child plays the piano well, and another is a computer whiz. How do I express the same amount of love for two totally different abilities? I do have biases, too.

    So I approach it realistically and find something to love specially. And I make it a point to tell my kids abut this. They may complain, as children are wont to, about the perceived unfair or uneven treatment, but I tell them that they are all special and you can’t enjoy an apple the way you would enjoy a lechon.

    For the most part, they get it, and if they don ‘t, I’m not worried because in time, they will.

Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
  1. How to enjoy Buntod
  2. World bids Gabriel Garcia Marquez ‘Adios’
  3. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  4. ‘Wild West’ Masbate’s pristine marine gems
  5. Kim Atienza: At home with art and design
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. Life lessons I want to teach my son
  8. Garcia Marquez left unpublished manuscript
  9. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  10. Wanted: Beauty queen with a heart that beats for the environment
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  3. Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  4. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  5. Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  6. How Margie Moran-Floirendo keeps her dancer’s body
  7. This is not just a farm
  8. President Quezon was born here–and so was Philippine surfing
  9. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  10. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  1. How Zsa Zsa Padilla found Conrad Onglao; Sharon Cuneta played Cupid
  2. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  3. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  4. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  10. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer


  • What Went Before: Malacañang allies alleged involvement in pork scam
  • Timeline: Napoles tell-all
  • 12 senators on Napoles ‘pork’ list, says Lacson
  • Napoles surgery in Makati hospital successful
  • Save the queen? Aide takes fall for Enrile, Gigi Reyes
  • Sports

  • Mixers trim Aces; Painters repulse Bolts
  • Donaire junks Garcia as coach, taps father
  • ’Bye Ginebra: No heavy heart this time
  • UAAP board tackles new rules
  • Baguio climb to decide Le Tour de Filipinas
  • Lifestyle

  • The best flavors of summer in one bite, and more
  • Homemade yogurt, bread blended with pizza, even ramen
  • Visiting chefs from Denmark get creative with ‘ube,’ ‘ buko,’ ‘calamansi,’ mangoes
  • Salted baked potatoes
  • A first in a mall: Authentic Greek yogurt–made fresh in front of diners
  • Entertainment

  • Return of ‘Ibong Adarna’
  • Practical Phytos plans his future
  • In love … with acting
  • From prison to the peak of success
  • ‘Asedillo’ location thrives
  • Business

  • This time, BIR goes after florists
  • Philippine Airlines to stop shipment of shark fins
  • PH banks not ready for Asean integration
  • Stocks down on profit-taking
  • Banks allowed to use ‘cloud’
  • Technology

  • ‘Unlimited’ Internet promos not really limitless; lawmakers call for probe
  • Viber releases new design for iPhone, comes to Blackberry 10 for the first time
  • Engineers create a world of difference
  • Bam Aquino becomes Master Splinter’s son after Wiki hack
  • Mark Caguioa lambasts Ginebra teammates on Twitter
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 24, 2014
  • Talking to Janet
  • Respite
  • Bucket list
  • JPII in 1981: walking a tightrope
  • Global Nation

  • PH seeks ‘clearer assurance’ from US
  • China and rivals sign naval pact to ease maritime tensions
  • What Went Before: Manila bus hostage crisis
  • Obama arrives in Tokyo, first stop of 4-nation tour
  • Believe it or not: Filipinos love US more than Yanks