When Parents Play Favourites
Bona|May 2018

The effects of parental favouritism can last a lifetime, not only on the least-favoured child but on all the siblings.

Nosipho Mashologu

Parental favouritism is a topic not often discussed among families, at social gatherings and some institutions. When the topic is brought up, some parents earnestly oppose the fact that they favour one child over the other, while others admit that it is inevitable. But, if left unattended, this can have longlasting effects on both children. “A child who feels shunned is most likely to have a poor self-esteem. After all, if my parents don’t think I’m worthy, how would anyone else?” says Delia Strondl, a registered counsellor based in Midrand, Johannesburg.

PERCEPTION IS EVERYTHING

Whether you are the favoured child or least favoured, the perception of unequal treatment has a detrimental effect on all children. It is important that siblings are consistently treated equally and fairly. But this has not always been the case for Elethu*

“My younger sister, Lutho*, always received all the attention. I remember nights when there was a movie on the TV and I would be told that I was too young to watch. I would then be sent to bed early. But my older brother and Lutho, who was said to be too young to know what was going on, would stay up. While I lay in bed alone, the rest of the family would laugh together and eat ice cream and popcorn,” she says.

According to Sarah CohenShwarz, a professional counsellor who works with adults and children, the message that you are loved or good enough comes mostly from your parents. And, when equal treatment is given to all children, it instils a sense of integrity and security.

THE PARENT’S PERSPECTIVE

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