Is this not the cutest thing on the planet? My little great nephew obviously thinks his daddy is IT. His dad's his hero -- and even at only 8 months old he already wants to be like him. Since he's too little to understand about God yet, the closest thing to God in his little heart is Dad.
You may or may not remember when you felt that way about your parents - that they were, like, perfect, and knew everything, and were always there to protect you and give you everything you needed. Basically, you sort of thought they were like God.
At some point you figured out that wasn't EXACTLY the case . . . I mean, seriously, nobody's perfect like God is, nobody is ALWAYS there for you -- you get the idea. But when you think about it, as much as you disagree with them sometimes and get all prickly because they aren't being fair and wish YOU could run the household -- your parents are in many ways the closest thing to godly as there is. Here's why I say that: your parents love each of their children, and they love them equally, and they would lay down their lives for any one of you at any time. I'm not sure any other adult in any group you're in can absolutely say that.
Yeah, well, if that's true -- if parents have a God-the-Father-like love for all their kids -- how come it doesn't always SEEM that way? Of all of the over twenty of you who posted on this topic, only ALYSON, ALY, KATE and RILEY really felt like the love and attention gets spread around evenly. (I love what Riley said -- "We really all irritate my mom the same amount!") Does that mean the rest of the parents aren't godly? No -- because we already figured out that your parents do love you more than anybody does, all of you. What it means is that we have to figure out some ways to deal with what it FEELS like, so we can trust them, trust God, and trust ourselves to believe that each of us is worth loving. So let's take a look at some of the different ways "favoritism" is affecting you and what you can do about that. Take a second first to be sure you have God firmly in mind as you read on: (He's SO in this with us!)
* WHAT IF ONE SIBLING NEEDS MORE ATTENTION FROM PARENTS BECAUSE OF ILLNESS OR SPECIAL NEEDS? Yeah, that's when it really gets funky, because you know WHY it's happening, but you still get resentful, and then you feel guilty that you're resentful because it isn't that kid's fault he needs more.
Examples: This is a toughie, as ALEX (whose little sister definitely seems to take advantage of the situation!) points out. ALISHA herself feels like she gets more attention because of her medical condition, and she's not exactly comfortable with that. KARINNA's brothers are currently sick so of course they're getting ALL the goodies from Mom; what can she say?
What to do: When it just can't be helped that one sibling is receiving more attention than you are, I suggest two things:
(1) Join your mom and dad in helping that bro or sis who needs so much. If mom has to spend more time working with your younger brother than you on schoolwork, can you get in there and help, too, so that at least you'll all be together?
(2) Do what you can to understand what your parents are going through. When your mom's wiped out from being up with sick kids, can you sit down with her when she does collapse onto the couch and rub her feet or bring her a peanut butter sandwich? That probably isn' the time to try to talk about YOUR problems, but chances are she'll ask how YOU are (she is a mom, after all) and you can share stuff with her then.
What not to do:
(1) Do not do things just to get attention (fake being sick, get in trouble at school, pout at the dinner table.
(2) Don't let your resentment toward your brother or sister build up. Talk to an adult you trust, who will understand that you're not being selfish; you're just feeling a little neglected, even though it's no one's fault. You are, after all, still a kid yourself.
* WHAT IF PARENTS ARE HARDER ON ONE KID THAN ANOTHER?
Examples: JULIA feels like she has a "Golden Child" in her family who gets most of the praise, and none of the "making it seem like we committed a federal crime" when she and her other sibs mess up. PATTI definitely feels like some kids in the family got "spoiled", and she definitely didn't! KATIE has gotten the impression that she is the "problem child" while her brother is more "persuasive" and doesn't receive the consequences that he should. MELODY says she gets yelled at foe doing the same thing her sister does without getting in trouble.
What To Do: It seems really unfair, I know, and in many cases it probably is. But here's the deal: nobody ever promised you "fair." Everybody SHOULD get the same consequences for the same "crime", but not everybody does. SO -- all you can really do is:
(1) Pray for wisdom for your parents
(2) Stay focused on YOU -- how you can improve your behavior as YOU (not in comparison to your siblings).
(3) Forgive your parents when they really do seem biased.
What Not to Do:
(1) Don't whine to your parents about it at the time. You can sit down with them at some point when everybody's calm and ask them why they gave your brother different consqeuences than you -- not to criticize them but to understand how you can be a better kid
(2) Don't complain about it to the sibling that's getting away with murder. This is between you, God, and your parents. Your sister really can't do anything about it. I mean, what's she going to say, "Mom, I think you should be as hard on me as you are on Susie?" I don't think so!
(3) Don't stew about it for, like, hours at a time, saving up examples of unfairness like you're making deposits in a bank account . Take it to God in a journal or however you pray, listen for guidance, and move on. The only person you can change is yourself, right?
* WHAT IF YOUR SIBLING GETS MORE PRAISE THAN YOU? That's almost as bad as unequal punishment, isn't it? It's like, "Hello! Aren't I wonderful, too?" How do you handle THAT without feeling like a glory-seeking light monger?
Examples: TENLEY's sister seems to get more attention because she's more musically gifted than she is. TALIA feels a lot of competition with her sister over the piano with Sis getting more praise even though Talia is good at it, too.
What To Do: This one's hard, because you don't want to be, like, "Pay attention to ME!" Still, it hurts not to feel appreciated. Here's what I suggest:
(1) Try to do what you do for the joy of it -- as a way to express yourself with the gifts you've been given. Each of us has a special purpose, and right now in your life is the time to develop all your gifts and talents so you'll be ready as that purpose becomes apparent to you. God's purpose for us is never to be better than anybody else at a certain thing. So even if your parents seem to be spotlighting your sister's wonderfulness, you can be sure God has great things in mind for yours. That's VERY hard to do and you can't do it alone. Ya gotta have God in there with you -- so pray every day that you'll keep your focus where it needs to be (no matter who is trying to push you in another directon!)
(2) Compliment your sibling on his or her talents. Show respect for his or her gift. Ask them for advice or help. Suggest that you play duets or write songs together. Keep yourself out of the competition, the better-than thinking, and love the fact that you have all that talent in one family.
What Not To Do:
(1) Don't keep a mental list of all the times people praised your smart, talented, pretty (etc!) sister and left you out. Instead, keep a list of all the times you felt really, really good about something you did -- times when you can just tell God has a hand in it.
(2) Don't work your buns off trying to be better than he or she is so you'll get noticed. Competition is only a good thing when it's done to make you better at what you do.
(3) Don't put the much-praised-one down to other people. It's not okay to say, "Well, of course she's better at it -- my parents pay for more lessons for her," or "You only hear her in perfomance; you should see how many mistakes she makes when she's practicing." You might momentarily feel good about yourself, but that won't last. And nobody else is going to feel good about you at all! You've just made yourself look small and jealous -- and that's so not you!
* WHAT IF YOUR PARENTS HOLD UP ONE KID IN THE FAMILY AS THE EXAMPLE EVERYBODY'S SUPPOSED TO FOLLOW? Aw, man, talk about something that'll get the hackles up on the back of your neck!
Examples: PATTI has heard her dad say, "Look at Faith. She does everything perfect." Patti never tried to be like her because she felt so resentful. Can't blame you, Patti. ABBIE knows her parents want her to be like her brother because he smiles when he does his chores. (Is there something wrong with the boy? JK!) MELODy is very different from her always-did-everything-right sister and keenly feels the comparison.
What To Do: Whether you're actually hearing, "Why can't you be more like _________?" or you just sense it, this is one of the hardest issues to deal with, because right now, you're trying to be who YOU are, and that isn't necessarily what somebody ELSE is. What to do? I have a few guidelines you can try:
(1) Take a good long look at your "perfect' brother or sister and see if you see any good traits that, really, you'd like to see in yourself. Not things that are just not you (she's WAY outgoing and you're much more reserved? don't try to change that) but things that really work for her that maybe everybody should try -- like looking for the good in people or giving a little more than you're asking for or always apologizing for her part in a fight. ANYBODY can and should do those things. There's nothing like having a live example in your house every day. LIANA has tried this and it seems to be working for her
(2) Then take a good long look at yourself and see YOUR great qualities. You have tons of them, and you have your own, special, God-given way of showing them. Focus on doing that, rather than on who your sister is and who you're not
(3) Really listen to what your parents are saying about that sibling who seems to be getting it all right (she clearly isn't because nobody does, but that's another subject) What exactly is it that they're asking you to do? Can you do that, just because it's the right thing to do? For example, if she follows all the household rules, can't you do that? If not, why? Can you talk that over with your parents (leaving your bro or sis's name out of it?) If they are clearly asking you to be popular like your sister or athletic like your brother or mature like the sibling who's -- hello! -- four years older than you -- no, you can't do that and nobody should ask you to. Be really sure that's what you're hearing, and then talk to your folks about it. Tell them what you think you have to offer the family, how you're trying to be your own best self, and I bet they'll lay off the comparing
What Not to Do:
(1) Don't try to be the exact opposite of your "model" sibling just because you're mad. If you do that, you're missing out on any improving you might do, and you're going to become bitter and not your true self at all.
(2) Don't try to live up to your sibling's image. Figure out what you like to do, and how you want to have friendships with people and go for it.
(3) Don't take out your resentment on the brother or sister who your parents hold up as the supreme example. It's not his or her fault your parents are doing this. If your sister acts all superior to you, it's because she's been told she's superior. Love her for who she really is. If you just have to get it out of your system, vent in a journal, do somethng active to get rid of pent-up energy, or talk to an adult you trust who will understand that you're struggling
WHAT IF IT'S NOT YOUR OWN SIBLINGS WHO ARE GETTING MORE ATTENTION. WHAT IF IT'S KIDS OUTSIDE YOUR OWN FAMILY? Ouch. This one is incredibly hard to take. Feeling like you're not getting the love from your own mom that people she didn't even raise are getting really cuts to the core of self-worth. Let's see if we can find some relief for you.
Examples: ELIZABETH has been hurting over this for a long time. Her mom ministers to older teens, and even though she is not a teen herself, 18 seems to be the magic age for getting her time and energy. ALEX feels that, too, with her mom.
What To Do: I have a few thoughts which I so hope will help
(1) if you haven't already, sit down with your mom and tell her how you feel -- not whining but being clear that your feelings are hurt. Maybe even if you've done it before, you might try it again, using a different approach. (see below)
(2) Put your resentment (which is VERY valid) aside for just a few minutes and try to see your mom as the girls she's helping see her. What's she doing for them? How's she helping them? Then thank God that she's there for them. That's all. Just start by giving her whatever credit she deserves. It will help you be more positive as you proceed from here
(3) Write down one thing that you want to do with your mom. Have a bedtime practice where she spends five minutes with you before you turn out the light? Cook one meal a week together? Go on errands with her so you can talk in the car? Make it a small, doable thing. Then write an invitaton for her -- either using the computer or decorating it yourself., Make it something fun. YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED TO A BEDTIME GET TOGETHER IN MY ROOM. TONIGHT. NINE P.M. TO NINE O --FIVE P.M. JUST BRING A SMILE. Even if you've done something like this before, try it again. Stay positive.
What Not To Do:
(1) Don't attack her with a list of the ways she's neglecting you (even if she is) Nobody responds well to a full onslaught
(2) Don't put your mom down to the girls she's ministering to.
(3) Don't let your resentment build up. If talking to her hasn't helped -- she tells you you're being selfish (you aren't) and that you just want attention (uh, yes, actually -- because you deserve it!) -- can you talk to your dad? Is there another adult you trust that you can talk this over with? Write to God about it in your journal?
(4) Don't just vent,however. Take whatever action you can. If someone suggests that you, volunteer to fold laundry with your mom so you can have some time together, don't say, "That's not what I want!" Or "She wont' talk to me!" Or whatever other reasons you can think of for not trying it because you're afraid you're going to be rejected. Look at it this way: What you are doing is a good and beautiful thing: you are trying to have a relationship with your mother. If she turns that down, you have done nothing wrong, and it says nothing about who you are. It says your mom has some changing to do. Pray that God will guide her in that.
WHAT IF YOUR PARENTS GET ALONG BETTER WITH ONE SIBLING THAN ANOTHER? That happens ALL the time, not because parents are playing favorites but because personalities are just like that. Of course, if you're the one not getting along so well with mom or dad, that doesn't help much, does it? Here's what might:
Examples: SARA feels ignored while her sweet sister gets it all, for no apparent reason. KEITHTISHA knows she's more liked because she just doesn't get in trouble as much.CAITLIN clearly sees that her sister and her mom are just alike and she and her mom aren't the same at all. (Interestingly, her sister say SHE"s the fave because she's the oldest . . .) KORTNIE is aware that she gets along better with her parents, especially when it comes to help with problems. RUE FAN just plain feels like she has the whole Jacob and Essau thing going on! (If you want to look that up, see Genesis 25-36)
What To Do: I'm sorry you're in this position, because it seems like you have to have a personality transplant to solve it! But you don't. Here's what you CAN do:
(1) Realize that it's just about people getting along better with some people than others, no matter how much they love them. It's natural -- and it's not about you not being as good as your bro or sister (or better than them!)
(2) Make a collage (remember how to do that?) of YOU and one of YOUR MOM (or DAD). Look at how different they are. Share that with your mom -- in a fun way! It will show both of you how special you each are, even though you aren't exactly alike.
(3) Next time you get into it with that parent you just don't get along with (while your brother does!), see if you can backtrack to what started it. Is it that you need time to think when you're asked a question, and your mom is the type to snap out an answer and move on, so she's impatient with you? Was it because you asked your dad, like, ten questions when he told you to do something, when he's not the type to want to discuss his reasons? You don't have to totally change yourself to get along with your always-in-a-fight parent, but you can adjust how you respond. You can say, "Mom, can I have a minute to think about that?," instead of thinking, "She's just going to have to wait because I don't know" -- when what you DO know is that she's going to blow a vein in her forehead if you don't say something soon. Can you say, "Dad, I'll do it, but later could we talk about this?"
What Not To Do:
(1) Don't take it out on your brother or sister who DOES get along with mom just because you don't. It's not that sibling's problem.
(2) Don't try to change anybody, because you can't. You can't even change your true self. You can only change how YOU react. That's all. God will help. Always.
(3) Don't just say, "Well, this is the way it is. I'll never have a good relationship with my mom/dad." You CAN have it. It's just going to take more work -- but it's going to help you a LOT in the future when you're out there trying to get along with people who don't have to love you!
(FINALLY) WHAT IF YOU ARE THE FAVORED ONE, THE GOLDEN CHILD, THE KID IN THE FAMILY WHO GETS ALL THE GOODIES FROM THE PARENTS? Not many people said that about themselves, probably because nobody thinks that's what's happening! It's always easier to see that somebody ELSE is getting all the love and attention, right? But some of you did say you think you might be getting off easier -- I certainly knew that about myself. So let's take our last look at that:
Examples: LILLY FAN feels like she might be the favorite since she's the youngest, but she doesn't really like it. BETHAN wonders if her younger siblings see her that way. Others of you said there are definitely times when you know you're the shining one, at least for the moment.
What To Do: This is almost all about being gracious. And that's a good skill to develop. Here's how:
(1) Keep telling yourself that you are not better than your brothers and sisters. It is SO easy to get that impression about yourself without even realizing it.
(2) Know what your own shortcomings are and keep working on them, even if your parents don't seem to expect you to.
(3) Pour a lot of love and attention on your fellow siblings. Don't stay up on the pedastal.
What Not To Do:
(1) Don't ever use your position as the presumed favorite to get special privileges.
(2) Never treat your siblings like they're not as good as you are. Always look for their wonderful qualities and point those out whenever you can.
Whew -- that's a lot, isn't it? I really, really hope that helps. If it doesn't, just keep going to God as your guide, knowing God loves you just as much as every one of his children -- so of COURSE God's going to give you the answers you ask for. What can you do today? STEP 5!
CHOOSE ONE SMALL THING FROM THE ABOVE LIST THAT YOU CAN DO, ONE THING THAT FITS YOUR SPECIAL ISSUE AND DO IT AS SOON AS IT MAKES SENSE TO DO IT. THEN TELL US WHAT YOU DID AND WHY AND HOW IT TURNED OUT. EVEN IF IT DIDN'T GO WELL, THAT'S OKAY. WE'LL TAKE IT FROM THEREIF YOU DONT' HAVE ANY OF THESE ISSUES EVER, YOUR STEP 5 IS TO EXPRESS TO YOUR PARENTS IN SOME WAY HOW GRATEFUL YOU ARE FOR THAT. LET US KNOW WHAT YOU DID.
IF YOU'RE JUST JOINING US AND YOU WANT TO BE PART OF THE SIBLING CONTEST, GO BACK TO THE LAST FEW WEEKS' POSTS FOR THE FIRST FOUR STEPS AND POST ABOUT THOSE. EVERYBODY WHO DOES ALL THE STEPS GETS A PRIZE!
As you're working your steps, remember to pray this prayer (from Psalm 43:3) "Send out your light and your truth that they may lead me." That's all you need. You go, my mini-women!