Let me start out by telling you that I have only given birth to one child. That fact makes me less than an expert in the topic of this column. However, that has never stopped me before, so I will forge ahead. I do, however, have a number of grandchildren who hold the strings to my heart.

My mother had three daughters – Ginny, Judy, and Natalie. To my knowledge, during our childhood we never worried about Mom or Dad loving one of us more than they loved the other two. It never entered our minds that they might have a favorite.

Sure, I was the eldest. That might make some people think that my parents loved me the best because I was first. Or, perhaps they loved Judy (the middle sister) best because she was smarter. Or, maybe they loved baby sister Natalie the best because she was so cute and had a personality "plus." None of that was true. Mom and Dad loved us all the same.

How do I know that? Because we were all treated exactly the same way- most of the time.

However, there were times when a certain amount of favoritism was shown. When one of us was sick, she got extra attention. If one of us had a special award or honor, her star shone brighter. If Ginny needed to move home after her divorce, there was room for her. If Judy needed help with a car payment or Natalie had to have black dresses purchased in order to fulfill the requirements of a job, Mom and Dad could be counted on.

The funny thing was –at that time of our lives, we girls weren't jealous of each other. We loved each other so much that the differences in our "needs" didn't get in the way. When one of us won an award or had something nice happen to her, we all celebrated. If someone did something nasty to one of our sisters, we family members stood side by side. Our loyalty went unquestioned.

Funny thing. Our parents always seemed to know just how to treat us so that we never felt jealous or threatened. In some families, one child might be envious of what other children in the family receive. Sometimes parents encourage this jealousy if they blatantly show favoritism – buying more gifts for one child or treating one child differently than the rest. Nothing can drive a wedge between siblings faster than a sense of unfairness.

One mother came into my office when I was an elementary principal. She had her two children with her, but she had come in to talk about the oldest one, who was having academic difficulties. She said, "Johnny (the elder boy) is the one who takes after his father. He got all the stupid genes." The younger boy laughed at that and said to me "I'm on the honor roll." Curbing my immediate instinct to slap the little whippersnapper, I

turned to his older brother, put his arm around his shoulder and said, "What can I do to help you?" He gave a shy smile and said, "Give me some smart genes."

That was a case of rampant favoritism. Perhaps the poor kid had been told for so long that he was dumb that his schoolwork began to show it. Even though he loved his younger brother, I'm sure, it was probably very hard for him to not feel jealous. Poor parenting in that case.

If you have one or 20 children (or grandchildren), loving them is a must. Loving them all the same is a challenge.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS THIS OR ANOTHER EDUCATION AND FAMILY TOPIC WITH DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM [1] OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.