In this week's parsha, we learn that Yakov (Jacob) loves Yosef (Joseph) more than he loves his other sons, because he was elderly when Yosef was born. To show his love, Yakov gives Yosef a robe made of fine wool. When the brothers see that their father favors Yosef, they hate Yosef and are unable to speak to him with civility. When the opportunity arises, they sell Yosef to a caravan of Arabs bound for Egypt, and tell Yakov that he has died.
Yakov may have valid reasons for favoring Yosef. Yosef is the first-born son of his favorite wife, Rachel, born after many years of marriage. Yosef even resembles Yakov. Yosef is highly intelligent and Yakov is able to teach him everything he knows about Torah. Nevertheless, our Sages blame Yakov and strongly caution us. "As a result of the favoritism that Yakov showed to Yosef by purchasing him fine wool, his brothers were jealous of him, and this resulted in our forefathers descending into [slavery in] Egypt." (Talmud, Shabbat 10b) You don't have to be a Torah scholar to recognize that showing favoritism never has a positive outcome.
As parents, how can we ensure that we do not favor one child over another?
Torah teaches that each of us is created in the image of G-d. This means that each of us has an intrinsic value, and no one of us is worth more than another. Furthermore, our worth is unrelated to what or how much we accomplish, as each one of us has a unique mission in life to fulfill.
It is incumbent upon us as parents to get to know each of our children, help them find and develop their G-d-given talents and abilities, and allow them to reach their unique potentials. We must value and appreciate each of our children's individual personalities and character traits equally, as each child is uniquely equipped to accomplish his life's tasks.
As parents, we don't get to choose the personality, character traits, or talents our children have. G-d has a reason for giving us the children He has. Sometimes our children have different personalities than our own; sometimes they give us a hard time; sometimes they struggle with things that come easily to us. No matter how different our child is from us, we have to learn to appreciate the child's special and unique qualities. Only then will we be able to give that child the unconditional love she needs from us to fulfill her true potential.