Recently I was asked by a college student, who is not the favored child among his siblings, the problem of parents showing favoritism. He would like to know what he could do to control his jealousy toward the one who is favored.
Let me share with you how I answer his question.
1. The Problem of Favoritism Itself:
a) Be sure that your perception is accurate. Check your view with the favored sibling and with your parents. See if they agree with you. If they deny it, explain to them the evidences that cause you to feel that way and let them have a chance to explain themselves.
b) Try to be objective. Same privileges granted to two children do not imply a lack of favoritism and different privileges granted to two children at the same age does not necessarily mean favoritism. Children do mature differently. And parents may treat the second child differently than from the first one because of their own growth and development. It may have nothing to do with favoritism.
c) Avoid the pitfall of the brother of the prodigal son (Luke 15:25-32). The father’s action can be interpreted as playing favorites, but in fact he is not.
2. Relationship with Your Parents:
a) Try to understand the reasons for favoritism from your parents’ perspective. Needless to say, no reason is reason enough, but still it may be helpful to try their pair of tinted glasses.
b) Do not insist on equal treatment because you are not going to get it and it can only make matters worse. You must understand that from your parents’ perspective, they are acting correctly. Even if they know they are wrong, they have reasons not to change.
c) Work on concrete matters that can win your parents’ confidence in you and make them proud of you. Try to meet their expectation as much as you can but avoid competing with the favored sibling. Seek to please them in matters that you also believe in but may be reluctant to do.
D) Show appreciation for your parents. Thank them for what they have done for you. You may not get as much as the favored sibling, but you are getting something. Thank them for those things.
3. Relationship with the Favorite Sibling:
a) Recognize the fact that his favored position is largely, if not totally, not of his own doing but that of your parents’. He is as much as a victim of circumstances as you are.
b) More, the favored sibling may want equal treatment as much as you do but don’t know how to go about achieving it.
c) Avoid comparing and competing with him because even if you win you lose. You parents may compare the two of you and the favored sibling may want to compete with you, but you should not. Instead of competing with him, compete with yourself. Concentrate on doing the very best you can.
d) Pray for him. Be friendly and cordial. Seek his good as much as you can.
4. Relationship with Yourself:
a) Negatively, don’t focus on the fact that is not fair. Of course it is not.
b) Positively, thank God for who you are, what you have and what you can do.
c) Force yourself not to play the passive role of simply reacting to your parents and the favored sibling. Instead, make decisions for yourself, take initiative and be responsible for your action.
d) Heed the advice of Paul to Timothy when he wrote, “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (I Timothy 4:12)
5. Relationship with God:
Your relationship with God is always the most crucial in all your relationships. You can analyze your problems and prescribe appropriate solutions to them but only God can give you the motivation to want to do them.
Make sure your relationship with God is good before you try to solve your problems with the favored sibling and your parents.