IMMIGRANT FAMILIES 3: Favoritism
Immigrant Chinese parents generally favor boys over girls. More, they often favor one child over another.
Favoritism may adversely affect the relationship between siblings as well as that of husband and wife.
Favoritism and Sibling Relationship
Favoritism may be practiced by parents who get along with each other as well as by those who do not. Let us first examine favoritism practiced by parents who get along with each other.
Referring to diagram 1, we can see the parents are on good terms with each other but they both favor the first child over the second child. (The case of a couple who get along with each other but each favors a different child will be discussed under the section “Favoritism and Husband-Wife Relationship.”)
If the system in diagram 1 is stable, it can be seen that the line between the children should be dotted, meaning their relationship is not good. Hence we can deduce: if parents favor one child over another, the relationship between the two children is poor. Besides the poor relationship between the children, we can predict the second child (may not be second by birth other) will probably suffer from low self-image.
Now let us take a look at favoritism practiced by parents who do not get along with each other. There are basically only two different ways the couple can practice favoritism on their children: (1) they both favor the same child (as in diagram 2); and (2) each of them favor a different child (as in diagram 3).
From diagram 2, we may make the following observations: (1) the first child is under pressure; (2) the relationship between the children is poor. If the couple were to favor the second child over the first one, then it is the second child who would be under pressure but the relationship between them remains poor.
Diagram 3 represents the configuration of a family where the couple does not get along and where each parent favors a different child. If the family system is stable (by stable we are not saying the system is good or bad but that no pressure is put on the system to change its configuration), we can see if a line were to be drawn between children, it would be a dotted line, that is, the relationship between the two children is bad.
From the above cases of favoritism, it can be seen that wherever you find favoritism, the relationship of the children is poor no matter whether the parents get along with each other or not.
From the Bible we can see favoritism practiced by the patriarchal families, from Abraham through Jacob. Abraham and, more particularly, his wife, Sarah, favor Isaac over Ishmael1. Isaac favors Esau over Jacob while his wife, Rebekah, prefers Jacob over Esau2. Jacob favors Joseph over his other sons3.
The consequence? In every case, the children did not get along. Ishmael4 was driven out of the house, Esau5 intended to kill his brother Jacob, and Joseph6 was sold by his brothers as a slave into Egypt.
Favoritism and Husband-Wife Relationship
Sometimes the good relationship between a husband and wife may be wrecked by each favoring a different child. The Bible offers just such an interesting, if unfortunate, the family of Isaac and Rebekah.
When Isaac and Rebekah first got married, their relationship was very good because the Bible tells us “Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother, Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”7
The Bible is silent about how long their happiness lasted. But as their sons, Esau and Jacob, grew up, tension began to mount. Their sons were very different. “Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents.”8 Not only were they different, the tastes of their parents, Isaac and Rebekah, were also different. “Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.” (Gen. 25:28, NIV). That is to say Isaac loved Esau more than Jacob and Rebekah loved Jacob more than Esau. If we were to diagram these relationships, they would look something like diagram 4.
How are we to complete the other two relationships in diagram 4. Many Christians know about the notoriously bad relationship between Esau and Jacob. Esau accused Jacob of stealing his birthright and his blessing from their father. As mentioned before, Esau was so angry he wanted to kill Jacob. It is safe to say the line between Esau and Jacob is a broken line.
According to my experience, not too many Christians think of Isaac and Rebekah as having a bad relationship. Many point to Genesis 24:66 and said Isaac love Rebekah. But that was before they had their twins and favoritism came into the picture.
From Genesis 27, it is clear Rebekah wanted Isaac to bless Jacob rather than Esau, the first-born. She wanted her way so badly she was willing to use deception on her husband. She asked Jacob to dress like Esau to deceive Isaac. When Jacob, who was very cunning himself, refused, she urged him on by saying, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say.”9
Later on at the end of chapter 27, Rebekah deceived her husband a second time. This time, she misled her husband by giving him the wrong reason for sending Jacob away.
When a wife is willing to go to such an extreme to deceive her own husband time and again, how good a relationship do you think she and her husband have? For me, I am fully persuaded that the relationship between Isaac and Rebekah was poor, at least after favoritism had set in.
If the relationships between Rebekah and Isaac and that of Esau and Jacob were bad, then we may complete diagram 4 as diagram 5.
From the example of Isaac and Rebekah, we can say if a husband and wife were to each favor a different child, their originally good relationship may deteriorate into a bad one.
Negatively, the grave consequences of favoritism should be warning enough for parents to stop practicing it. Positively, the realization that every child is a gift from God and is made in His image should motivate all Christian parents to abandon all the petty reasons that cause us to favor one child over another.
- Genesis 21:8-10, 14
- Genesis 25:28
- Genesis 37:3
- Genesis 2;14
- Genesis 27:41
- Genesis 37:28
- Genesis 24:67, NIV
- Genesis 25:27, NIV
- Genesis 27:13, NIV
Human Relationships in Triangles:
- 1. Three solid line.
- 2. One solid line and two dotted lines.
- Three dotted lines;
- Two solid lines and one dotted line.
Solid line: Good relationship, like each other; good feelings toward each other.
Dotted line: Poor relationship, dislike each other, feelings of animosity toward each other.
Please note: A stable system means no pressure is forcing it to change, whereas an unstable system means pressure is applied on it forcing it to change to a stable system. When change is not forthcoming in an unstable system, people in that system are under tension with the most pressure exerted on the person where the two solid lines intersect.