Dear Harper: I’m pretty sure my dad thinks I’m his favorite. I feel good and bad about this but mostly bad. My brother is older than me and Dad is always stricter with him than me and doesn’t joke around with him like he does with me. I don’t know why this is. My brother definitely notices it. What is your advice? — Confused in Colrain
Dear Confused: Sometimes the tone of voice isn’t the major thing. Your dad will still love you as much as your brother even if he yells at him all of the time. I bet if you asked your dad, he would tell you that he loves you and your brother the same.
My mom and I talked about your question. She recommended I look through a book she has called Touchpoints: Birth to Three (Da Capo Press, 2006) by T. Berry Brazelton, M.D. I found this about “valuing individuals,” which means seeing the worth in each person:
Parents often wonder how to treat each child equally. The answer is simple: You can’t. Each child is a different personality and needs a different approach. For instance, you might say to one, “You need me to speak softly.” To another, “You always need me to speak angrily.” When they torture you with “You’re always nicer to him than you are to me,” you can say, “You are very different people, which is great. I need to treat you differently. When I speak loudly to you, it’s to make you listen but I am speaking just as lovingly even if it’s louder.”
You might feel better if you talk to your dad. As your brother is older, your dad might be joking around with him in a way that you don’t understand. Your father might have different expectations for you and your brother since you are different ages. For instance, I get to stay up later than my younger brother because I am older. It’s not because my parents like me better; it’s because I’m more mature. I also get to watch movies that have swear words in them whereas my younger brother doesn’t get to watch them as much. People are different and that’s good! If everyone were the same, that would be very bad.
You can’t control everything your dad does. There’s only one person you can control and that’s YOU! Treat your brother kindly and he’ll return the favor. Tell me how everything goes.
Harper Brown is one of The BSE Flow’s advice columnists and its New York bureau chief. Got a question? Write firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your contact information and name. We won’t print your name if you ask us not to.