An ideal world would comprise parents loving their children equally and the children consequently having a healthy relationship with their siblings. However, in the contemporary world that we are living in, it is not as we would expect it to be. Hence, there is this genuine issue of parental favoritism seen everywhere. However, before addressing this issue of preferential treatment and giving solutions to deal with it, it is crucial to understand the difference between favoritism and differential treatment. Although they seem extremely similar at the surface level, they have various points of differences, and you need the perspective to look at it properly. While preferential treatment or favoritism is giving more attention to one of the children and offering a positive treatment over others in all circumstances, differential treatment is the way of treating a child in a different manner due to his special physical or mental needs.
When we look at parental favoritism, there are several parameters, like the child’s age, birth order, their personality, and even gender that determine the behavior of the parents towards their children. Apart from kids, surprisingly, even adults are – to a certain extent – victims of favoritism played by their parents. The reasons in this regard could be existence of stepchildren, or it may have to do with education and career-related issues.
Now, since we know that there is a thin line of difference between parents’ differential treatment towards their children and favoritism, it will be easier to cope with the situation. Following are the ways you can attempt to deal with the problem of favoritism.
Analyze the Situation
Before jumping to conclusions, it is extremely important to study the whole situation and determine whether it is really favoritism or you are misunderstanding and looking at things from a different perspective. The behavior of your parents may seem unacceptable to you, but they may not intend to neglect you and give more attention to your sibling. Moreover, it might also be the case that they are dealing with the other child differently, like I mentioned before, and so, it might not be favoritism after all. They do not realize that by doing so, they are making you feel neglected or as though they are favoring the other child. Only when you have enough evidences and are sure about it being favoritism, think of a further move.
Introspection Should Be the First Step
One should always be able to introspect his own deeds (not trying to be preachy) before accusing somebody. For instance, it might be the case that you made some mistake, your parents are trying to make you realize that, and hence the difference in behavior. Try to recollect if anything of that sort has happened in the past, and if you find it out, go to your parents right away and confess. However, if nothing of that sort seems to be the issue, then plan your next move.
Have Your Points Before Approaching Your Parents
I know this sounds a bit off the track, but understand the fact that even if they are your parents and you are their child, any conversation – especially the one like this – needs to have a base. You should be able to point out instances wherein you felt you were neglected or your sibling was given more attention for unknown reasons. This will help you get your point across in the correct and effective manner. It will also make your parents remember the incident and realize if they were at fault.
Misunderstanding and miscommunication may worsen the situation and conflicts may emerge. Even lack of communication among the members may result in unfair things happening in the family. Hence, speak to your parents whenever you experience injustice, instead of indulging in sibling rivalry. Tell them that whatever they are doing is hurting you, because they might not have realized it, and if you don’t express, they might not even know about it.
Also, the way of communication should be proper to avoid conflicts and grievances resulting from them that could continue throughout life. Keep your voice low, and be polite in your approach. Maintain proper body language and avoid pointing or using any other unnecessary gestures. They are your parents after all; deal with them respectfully. Also, avoid making direct accusations, as it may hurt them, and if the accusations turn out to be false at the end, they will be even more hurt and you will also carry the guilt in mind for a long time.
Do Not Lose Confidence
Feeling neglected is not the end of the world. It is an issue that can be sorted out in the family itself. I totally agree to the fact that favoritism on the part of parents makes children feel as if they are inferior and cannot achieve much in life. But, believe me, if you deal with it in the correct way, you will be out of it sooner and with a positive result. Be confident about your capabilities, and face the situation courageously.
Believe in Yourself
For the sake of justifying your worth, you may stretch yourself harder and become an overachiever. However, understand that this is not the correct way to deal with the problem, and you may cause harm to yourself. Real love is a free gift, and it doesn’t come with such things. So, be as you are and proudly possess your inherent qualities.
Build Good Relationships
Avoid retaliatory behavior in any case, and try to build a healthy relationship with the favored sibling. Understand that your sibling is also a victim of this act and is emotionally weak, who will be facing difficulties in forming healthy relationships in the future. So, talk to him/her frequently because he/she also needs someone to talk to and release the pressure that is there due to the extra care and attention.
Although it is really hard to believe and accept that parents do not love all their children alike, if such a situation arises, it affects all the members involved in this act, i.e., the child who is favored, the child who is neglected, and the parents themselves. The neglected child goes through a traumatic experience and feels low, while the favored child lacks the confidence, decision-making capacity, and becomes a dependent soul. Also, a kind of rivalry emerges between the siblings, and the favored child receives resentment from the other. The parent gets so involved in the child, that it is difficult to keep him/her out of sight in an extreme case.