One of the reasons why my mother and I had issues getting along was because I felt she favored my oldest sister over the rest of us. She always denied that she had a favorite child, and claimed she loved us all the same.
What made me think my mother had a favorite was when me and my oldest sister would fight, and my mother would always take my sister’s side whether she knew what happened or not. One incident that is burnt in my memory was when I was about fourteen or fifteen, and me and my sister had a heated argument, and I threatened to kill her and ran into my room crying.
My mother yelled, “Come back here!” then said “What’s wrong with you?” I started making my case, and then my sister started doing her typical guilty cry. My mother ran over, hugged her and said, “It’s okay, baby”.
I was like WTF? So you’re telling me that I’m sitting here crying and boiling over with anger, and you are embracing my eighteen year old sister who should be old enough to keep it together and is only crying out of guilt? Oh, please!
That was just the most extreme incident, but that had been happening in our household during our whole childhood. The favoritism is now happening in our adulthood, but it doesn’t bother me anymore because now my sister’s life sucks much more than mine, so I feel like we’re even.
In my article Sibling Rivalry: When Does it Go Too Far? , I talked about how sibling rivalry is not so much about jealousy, but more about wanting to be treated equally to your siblings. Most siblings that rival one another feel like the other is getting more of this or that. They don’t feel equal. Of course, at some point in life, kids have to realize that everything isn’t going to be equal, and life isn’t fair. But the parents also have to realize that it’s important for all their kids to feel loved and cared about.
My mother’s picking favorites caused me to not only hate my sister, but to hate her as well. I no longer hate any of them, but for a long time I had deep issues with them. Some scars are still there, but it made me a stronger person.
Some psychologists say a little bit of sibling rivalry is good, but I disagree. I think kids need to learn how to compete, but not with their siblings. When siblings compete, they are competing for love and attention-and no one should have to compete for that. That should be naturally given to them by their parents.
I’m not saying you have to shower your kids with so much attention, because honestly, kids that get too much attention end up being spoiled and annoying. They start feeling like everyone should pay attention to them and worship them, and that’s not good either. I just want to give you a few tips on how to make all of your children feel important so that the rivalry between them can stop.
1. Embrace all of their individual qualities. As much as kids want to be like other kids, you can teach them that they don’t have to because they are unique and talented. Any talent that you see your children have, point it out and tell them, “Hey, you’re really good at that. Keep it up.” This lets them know that you are able to see a unique quality in them as an individual.
2. Encourage them to do what they’re interested in. Please don’t tell your child things like, “Becoming a singer is a long shot” or “Being an astronaut is silly”. If you reject who they want to be, then you are rejecting who they are-and that’s going to cause some problems.
3. Be a fair referee. When your kids are having a fight, listen to both sides before you decide who’s right or wrong. Whenever kids feel like their parents make them out to be the bad guy, they will start acting like the bad guy all the time. Kids want to be what is expected of them, and if they feel like they are “the bad one”, then they will do what’s expected and actually be the bad one. You may find that they start to purposely make trouble.
4. Show a genuine interest in them. Do you find your kids admirable or fascinating at all? When your kids are talking to you about something they care about, try to actually pay attention. If they just helped another kid, or showed good manners to an adult, say something like “That was really nice” or give them a smile or a wink or something. Kids look up to their parents and admire them, so it makes them feel good when their parents admire them back.
The key to making this work is to do all four of these things for all your children-not just the one that feels left out.
Other articles you may be interested in:
Sibling Rivalry: When Does it Go Too Far?
Jealousy: A Secret Cry for Equality
Why Mothers and Daughters Don’t Get Along
Why Mothers Abuse Children & Why Child Abuse May Never Be Properly Addressed