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This is one of a series of Lesson-5 articles on
(functional) family. The series exists because the wide
range of current social problems around the world suggests that
most families don't
fill their members' needs (nurture) very well.
This article proposes options for responding to
relatives showing favoritism to certain family members. The article assumes you're
This brief YouTube video provides perspective on toxic relationships:
you have a "best friend"? A special aunt, sibling, or cousin? If
you're a parent of two or more kids, do you favor (like, appreciate,
enjoy, approve of) one more than another? Average adults and kids naturally
grow such preferences for some family members over others, depending on
their personalities, history, common likes and values, mutual needs, and
Family favoritisms range from mild and affectionate to harsh and shaming.
They may be denied, justified, ignored, joked about, or deplored by various
This article focuses on family favoritism that causes one or more adults or
kids significant shame, frustration, hurt, guilt, resentment, and/or anger.
You may feel "second best," or you may feel protective about another member
who is treated as inferior. The extreme case is some relatives dubbing
a family member a "black sheep," and shaming, shunning, and disowning her or
In cases of major favoritism, a related problem may be that family members
become polarized (split) into two or more groups - pro and anti-favoritism
alliances, and perhaps others who scorn both camps.
Family favoritism can manifest in many ways:
giving cards or gifts to some family members
but not others, or giving expensive gifts to favorite people, and token
gifts to others;
inviting some relatives to family events but
not calling or emailing, or not returning
critical gossip and disparagement to neutral
not speaking to a relative in social
gatherings, or being "distant," polite. uncaring, and superficial
avoiding eye contact with some people, not
lecturing, preaching, interrupting, and/or
to a relative, not listening or conversing;
avoiding honest confrontation about
differences and resentments;
rudeness (disrespect), tardiness, and unkept
promises (disrespect); and...
body and facial language conveying an
attitude of superiority, pity, disinterest; and/or disapproval.
(add your own examples)
Have you ever experienced any of these? Done any of them? If so, how did you
feel? What did you need?
Family favoritisms may be caused or amplified by parental divorce and
re/marriage. For example, relatives may "feel sorry" for a divorced parent
and/or their kids, and give them more attention and support than married
adult siblings and kids. That can also work in the opposite way - avoiding
divorce discomforts by reducing contact with certain relatives.
Relatives who have bonded with adult-kids' ex mate and/or their
favor them over a new mate and his/her kinfolk. They may also favor genetic
kids over stepkids. Biosiblings may prefer each other to stepsiblings, or
Bottom line -
family favoritisms come in many varieties and can have
several origins. Two key problems they can cause are (1) excessive shame,
hurt, resentment, and anger in one or more family members, and (2) split
loyalties that lower the family's unity and nurturance level.
If either of these are stressing you now, what can you do?
If You areDisfavored
If a parent, grandparent, sibling, or other relative treats other family
members better than you, there may be several surface reasons:
you've done something that offends or scares
them, and (a) they haven't told you, or (b) they told you but you haven't resolved
this together; and/or...
they disapprove of something about you, and
you're not willing or able to resolve this
values conflict together;
the relative's feel disrespected or disliked
by you, and aren't willing to confront you on that; and/or...
your existence causes them shame
and/or guilt for some reason - e.g. you were not a wanted conception, or
your parents abandoned, neglected, and/or abused you.
These are surface problems.
The underlying primary problems are that you and/or your relative/s...
Next, assess the relative/s who are "playing favorites" for
significant psychological wounds. If they are GWCs, they may be
without knowing it. Choose among these options
to relate to wounded parents and other kinfolk.
Plan a respectful two-part confrontation with each relative who seems to be
playing favorites. First, when they're undistracted, ask respectfully
if you (or the other family member) have offended them in some way. GWCs may
or may not give you an honest answer. If you get "yes," avoid explaining and
defending and getting into a debate or fight. Just
acknowledge what you hear, and - if warranted - consider apologizing.
Second, identify specifically what you need from your judgmental relative, choose
a mutual-respect attitude,
your need/s and any consequences one at a time, simply and directly.
Expect resistance, specially from GWCs.
options for resolving values and
loyalty conflicts and relationship triangles to your situation. You
probably have several of these stressors concurrently. If so, sort and
prioritize them, and deal with them one at a time;
study and apply these ideas on
resolving most relationship
problems as appropriate. Keep in mind that your relatives' dignity,
needs, and feelings are just as
learn these options for improving your
communication effectiveness with adults
and kids, and apply them as
if you're supporting a disfavored family
member other than a young child, avoid speaking for and
her or him. Encourage the person to assert their own feelings, needs,
and boundaries respectfully to the target relative/s. If you're
reluctant or uneasy with this, assess yourself for
(a symptom of psychological wounds). If your person has trouble
asserting, s/he may be a GWC.
Keep these ageless
in mind as you decide what to do before and after asserting.
If your target relative/s are receptive and
agree to cooperate with your assertion, thank them and appreciate your
Finally, if your relative/s agree to reduce or end their favoritism,
follow up. If they don't make an honest effort, repeat these steps for your
own integrity and self-respect. If you keep those prizes, your efforts are
successful regardless of your relative's reactions.
Notice how you feel about these options and guidelines. How do they compare
with how you've been reacting to family favoritism? Does your old strategy
get your needs met well enough? Is there anything in the way of your trying
the options above? Is your true Self answering these questions?
This Lesson-5 article proposes several options for managing family
favoritism. -- one or more members being treated "better" than others by
some relatives. The article describes common surface problems from
favoritism, and proposes several specific steps you can take to reduce your
half of three primary problems: psychological wounds, incomplete
grief, and an inability to manage
significant values and loyalty
conflicts and relationship triangles,