Parental Favoritism: What can you do

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Written By Poonam Singh

I am co-founder of and Principal of Cambridge Montessori Preschool Bangalore.

What does parental favoritism mean?

Favoring one child over the other is a very common thing. Even though the parents usually don’t agree with the fact that there is a difference in the way they treat their different children. Somehow, sibling favoritism gets in between and hampers the balance. The kid may feel that their parents like their siblings more. Some kids are affected by favoritism consciously or unconsciously. 

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Facts – To Be Honest 

Learning favoritism from one’s parents

Mostly, the parents who experienced less attention from the parent in comparison to their siblings are most likely to carry the same behavioral patterns with their children. 

If one child is smarter than the other

Most of the time, when one of the children excels in academics and extracurricular activities, the talking in the house is always around the person, making the other child feel inferior and sad. 

Birth order

Sometimes, it is generally noticed that the first and the youngest child get more attention than the rest in the family. Usually, the first child experiences more privileges and the last child gets the most parental affection.

Expectations while getting pregnant

Sometimes, when the parents didn’t expect to get another child. In such cases, parents usually have less affection towards that child.

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Why does favoritism happen?

Favoritism, in most of cases, is unintentional and unconscious. In addition to the different personalities, interests, and behavior, it is next to impossible to treat two different children the same as they have different needs and expectations. Personal development is unique to every child and so is their relationship with their parents.  

There are many reasons why parental favoritism happens. The child may be well-mannered and responsive to the parent. Regardless of the reason for favoritism, every child deserves to feel loved and special by their parents. Other reasons include is the difference in age leading to a difference in emotional, physical, and mental development. The favoritism can manifest in so many ways. Parents usually tend to spend more time with the same gendered child than with the opposite gendered one. Also, in the case of a mixed and unique family, Parents tend to favor their biological children over their stepchildren. 

Sometimes, favoritism is necessary. Parents tend to take care and give more attention to the newborn than the older one, or sometimes when their child is disabled and sick. In such cases, the parents should also make sure that they explain the unequal treatment and reason so that they don’t feel left out and understood. 

Some families discriminate and favor the child based on gender.

When the child shares the same passion as the parent, it is natural for the parent to get attached to that child. 

Favoring the child who is more talented and gifted. Parents are humans and when the child achieves something, the parents do feel proud and talk about their achievements. The other sibling may feel left out and humiliated. 

Parental Favoritism
parental favoritism

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What are the consequences of favoritism?

If favoritism exists for a longer time, the child may struggle to have a closer relationship with parents and drift apart. 

The overlooked child is more likely to get depressed because they feel more neglected and left out, and don’t get the necessary love and care. They usually end up feeling defeated and unmotivated after trying too hard to get affirmation and attention from their parents. 

They also feel jealous, angry, and resentful, making them act out in order to get their parents’ attention, which can make the situation worse. They have a hard time in developing self-identity, hampering their confidence. Lack of self-confidence can affect their emotional well-being and ability to withstand criticism. 

Many parents play favorites even after the child grows up, affecting their relationship. Parental favoritism can be disastrous if there are consistent differences between the child and parent. This not only affects the relationship between the child and parent but also, among the siblings. 

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Looking at the bright side

The long-term effects of being the most favored child are not all bad. Sometimes, not being too much under parental control and attention can make the child realize the harsh realities of the real world. 

The favored child would grow up in the assumption that they can get whatever they want, only to face the harsh reality in the future. Although there is a bright side to parental favoritism, the consequences are mostly negative. Most of the outcomes have a long-term effect, even after the child grows up and moves out of the house. 

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How to deal with Parental Favoritism 

As a parent, if you feel that their kid feels ignored or left out, don’t ignore it. The feeling is coming from certain situations and it is important to acknowledge it. It is important to validate their feelings and problem-solve. Try to understand what is bothering them and if they need more time with you, change your perspective, and try spending more time with your child. 

The child may try to ignore you altogether when you ask them, so specifically, question them what they need and give them the chance to explain. 

Usually, when the child outbursts or reacts too much to a situation, there is a problem greater than what you might know. Try to understand and validate their feelings. Find ways to protect their relationships with you and protect their feelings from getting hurt. 

Although parents cannot treat their children equally, they can definitely try to treat them fairly. It is important to identify their needs and expectations and give them the time accordingly. It is not only important for the child’s well-being but also for the relationship they hold with their parents and siblings. 

The sibling bond is as important as the relationship of the child with the parent. Its significance lies in the fact that when the parents grow old if the bond is strong among the siblings, they can share the strongest bond. 

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As a child 

  • Communicate with your parents how you feel: When you observe that your parents prefer your sibling more than you, communicate with them. Favoritism among siblings is very common but it can have serious implications if the attitude of parents is not fair among the siblings. 
  • Don’t have hatred towards your sibling: Your sibling might be unaware of the situation and having hatred towards him/her because of your parent’s attitude, only makes you the wrong person. 
  • Maybe it’s just in your head: Maybe what seems favoritism you might just be something that you are assuming in your head. Maybe your sibling requires more attention due to some reason. Communication with parents can help you get clear over their feelings and maybe get aware if there is any reason for their behavior 

Sibling relationships and parental favoritism | IN 60 SECONDS video

parental favoritism

FAQ – Ways to Deal With Parents That Show Favouritism

What do you do when a parent shows favoritism?

A parent’s job is to love and nurture all of their children equally, but sometimes favoritism can rear its ugly head. If a parent is showing favoritism, the best thing to do is to have a conversation with them about it. Try to explain how it makes you feel and why you think it’s unfair. If the conversation doesn’t go well or the favoritism continues, you can always talk to another trusted adult about the situation.

How do you stop parental favoritism?

Most parents naturally have a favorite child, but it’s important to make sure that this doesn’t lead to unfair treatment. One way to avoid this is to set clear rules and expectations for all of your children. This way, they know that they are being held to the same standard and there is no room for favoritism. Another way to avoid favoritism is to spend one-on-one time with each of your children. This allows you to create a strong bond with each child and show them that you love and care for them equally. If you are fair and consistent in your parenting, you can avoid the pitfalls of favoritism.

How do you deal with Favouritism?

One way to deal with favouritism is to try to be objective. This means making decisions based on facts and evidence, rather than emotions or personal preferences. If you find yourself struggling to be objective, it may be helpful to talk to someone else about the situation. Another way to deal with favouritism is to communicate with the person who is exhibiting favouritism. This can be a difficult conversation, but it may be the best way to resolve the issue. Finally, you can try to change the way you think about the situation. This means looking at the positive aspects of the situation, rather than the negative.

parental favoritism

I am co-founder of and Principal of Cambridge Montessori Preschool and DayCare Kaggadasapura Branch. I am also a Montessori certified teacher and have 5+ years of experience working with kids.

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