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Parental Favoritism Podcast Episode 38: Women's Mental Health

The Secret Pain of Parental Favoritism

a women's mental health podcast

Listen To Parental Favoritism Podcast

Are you struggling with the emotional impact of being the “least favorite” child? In this episode of Unapologetically All Over the Place with Randi and Jess, we dive into the topic of parental favoritism and how it can affect your mental health. Join Randi Owsley LMSW and Jessica Bullwinkle LMFT, as they discuss the signs of parental favoritism, coping strategies, and how to heal from this difficult experience. Whether you're a new mom, empty nester, or simply seeking mental health resources, this episode is for you.

Transcript Parental Favoritism Podcast

[00:00:00] Randi: 1, 2, 3, 4. Hi friends. It's Randy and Jess, and we're gonna cut the

[00:00:07] Jess: bullshit and let's get into women's mental health.

[00:00:13] Randi: Welcome to the podcast unapologetically All over the place with Randy and Jess. Two licensed psychotherapists who are very A D H D. We talk about mental health for women wellbeing and strategies for coping with this crazy life and all the challenges that come with it, and how it's all normal. Today's

[00:00:34] Jess: podcast, we're gonna talk about the dark side of parenting.

[00:00:38] Randi: In this episode, we're gonna talk about how parental favoritism can destroy sibling relationships.

[00:00:46] Jess: Mm-hmm. And find us and more resources on Randy and jess where we put up the transcripts from all of this. We put up everything we talk about. Um, you can find us on our YouTube channel as well, Randy and jess

[00:01:00] Randi: So, have you ever had

[00:01:02] Jess: these thoughts? Why don't our parents treat us the same?

[00:01:07] Randi: Why do my sibling and I don't get along? I.

[00:01:11] Jess: I wonder if I'd be closer to my sister if our parents treated

[00:01:14] Randi: us the same. Why does my dad seem to like my brother, sister, whoever better?

[00:01:20] Jess: I wish my siblings and I were closer, especially now that both my parents are gone, right?

I mean, these are questions I hear all the time in therapy. Like what? Why do siblings such, you know, why are they so different?

[00:01:33] Randi: Right? And so what is parental favoritism or what else can we call it? Sibling alienation. Alienation, sibling discrimination or sibling favoritism. Right. It's,

[00:01:47] Jess: it's basically when your parent shows unequal treatment to one child over the other.

Hmm. And a lot of parents do it unconsciously, right? Um, but it has such a lasting effect on the relationship that you have with your sibling. And most of the time siblings and kids, they have no idea why they don't like each other. I mean, that is what is so crazy about this. They have no idea why they're pitted against each other.


[00:02:12] Randi: So why does it happen or why do people do this?

[00:02:16] Jess: Oh man. Okay, so I see this all the time is that, um, sometimes it's, you know, who's easier. Oh, here you go. Do you remember that show?

[00:02:25] Randi: This is us. Yeah, but I know, don't watch it. Okay, so

[00:02:29] Jess: this is a spoiler for those who haven't gotten to this episode, but it's like a long time ago, so we should be, okay.

So in this Is Us, it's that show where they had the three twins. Two were biological twins, one was an adopted twin. Okay. And adopted. They weren't twins. The triplets, I'm sorry. So basically,

[00:02:45] Randi: I understand what you were saying though when you said twins, but three, I was still going with it until you said triplets, and I was like, oh, well,

[00:02:52] Jess: you know, two of them were twins and there was the other one, so now I, I guess they're triplets.

Okay. Okay. So anyway, they're in therapy with this mom and you know, one of the brothers is like, why did you like him better and why did you treat him better? And they're yelling. And the mom goes, because he was easier to love. Mm. He wanted me to love him. And that is what happens a lot of times is that.

Parents will naturally gravitate to the easier child, right? Right. Or the child that looks like them, right? Mm-hmm. Or

[00:03:27] Randi: like has the same interest as them, right? Or behaviors. Like if one is like, if you like love playing soccer and then you have a kid that loves playing soccer as a natural and like another one's not like that makes it.

Easier to have a relationship, right? Yes. But like that doesn't mean you shouldn't work on a relationship with a child that's different from you.

[00:03:48] Jess: Yes. If you have one that plays video games and one that reads books and you're the book reader, you're gonna gravitate towards the book reader because it's your interest.

Mm-hmm. It doesn't mean you shouldn't be sitting on your kid's bed going, show me what game you're playing, even if you're like, I'll pluck my eyelashes out while I do it, but please show me what games you're playing. Oh,

[00:04:07] Randi: a hundred percent. Like I have kids that have, you know, my daughter has a lot of similar interests as me, but she also has a lot of different interests as me, and I have to patiently sit and listen to them.

Same with my seven year old. He wants to talk about video games all the time, and I have no idea how to, I suck at playing video games, but will I still play them with him? Yes. Like, do I love it? No. Is it harder for me to find, you know, time and energy and interest for that? Yes. But do I still make it? Yes.

But so a lot of people don't do this uhuh, and not to say like they're doing it. Like you said, it can be very like unconscious. Yes. Because it's just easier. Yes, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't become self-aware that you're doing it. Right.

[00:04:50] Jess: And so some kids, it's, you know, somebody almost died in childbirth and they're, they're, they hang onto them closer or mm-hmm.

It could be, you know, I see this a lot in divorces is that the oldest son looks and acts like dad and dad's a dick cuz mom divorced him. So

[00:05:06] Randi: now, so that's triggering and they stay, it's triggering away and they stay away. Um, and it's even done with older adult children too. Yes.

[00:05:15] Jess: So even more so with adults.

Yes. Right. They'll talk about how in, in a lot of cultures, unless it's like a, you know, they favor the men, but most people will gravitate towards daughters versus sons cuz daughters are cuddly and I'm doing air quotes. Right. Yeah. Unless you're in a culture where my step side's family, Chinese, they, it's the first born son.

Mm-hmm. He's gonna carry on the name. Right.

[00:05:39] Randi: Right. So you do everything gravitating towards that family. Or it could be just that one lives closer than another. And so it's easier to see them and be around them and like, I don't have. My own personal issues about that, but my dad sees my sister a lot more because they both live on the east coast, you know, so it's, it's cheaper for them to go there.

They can drive there. It's less effort for them to have a relationship with them. Easier again, easier. And it's like I'm whatever about it, but, That still is a way that this happens and shows and a lot of people get very hurt over it or it creates resentment. Mm-hmm. Or feelings of, you know, self-doubt and things.

It can, even as an adult, you question why. Yeah.

[00:06:28] Jess: You know, they, you know, we talk about like middle child syndrome, you know, it's because that middle child, if you have three children, your first child, you are alone with them. Your middle child? Well, no. They've always had an older sibling. Your baby is always your last.

Right. Right. And so your middle child never has time to just be their own owns own child. Right. They're always shared with somebody else. Even if they go off to college, your baby is usually home. Mm-hmm. While the two are gone. Right. And so when you have a middle child, they don't get favored because it's the first and the youngest.

Right. So, I mean, it's just an interesting thing that when parents do you know, or you know, the others blended families. We have a blended family mm-hmm. Where we have a child who's 10 years older. Yes. And so I've always tried to make sure if I know I'm gonna buy my child a car, or not buy, but provide mm-hmm.

A car when she can drive. I wanted to provide him a car. Yes. So it, it was. Fair. Now granted we're in different, you know, economic places, but I want it to be fair, if I put a picture of her up, I want a picture of him up. Mm-hmm. To make sure that he still feels like

[00:07:42] Randi: he's there. Right. Yeah. Valued included part of the family.

And a lot of people don't think outside of the here and now or that, or how if those kids, even if they don't live in the home or aren't in the home, Every week. Like say if it's like a mixed, you know, or a blended family or a step family, and the kids only come on a weekend or during the summer, that doesn't mean they don't still want that same value mm-hmm.

As the other children in the home and that they wanna see that they're represented too. Mm-hmm. Like even as an adult, think if you go to your parents, House and you saw all these pictures of just one of your sibling and all of their accomplishments or whatever they thought was important, and there's none of you, you would still feel slighted.

So how would a small child feel if they weren't represented? Like

[00:08:34] Jess: that. And, and what that does is how a small child feels is they end up feeling like I'm not good enough. Right. They end up feeling like, Y my brother is better, my sister is better. Mm-hmm. And it causes such e like internal feelings of like resentment and jealousy.

Yeah. So there's all

[00:08:52] Randi: these. Impacts that it has. Yes. Um, feeling of neglect, feeling unloved, unloved, and these things spiral into other unhealthy relationships and patterns because the family is the basis of who you are and where you learn things. And if you've learned to feel undervalue or unloved. It leads to these long lasting relationship issues, emotional issues, and mental health

[00:09:21] Jess: issues.

Yeah. Just the same too, is that if you are the favored child mm-hmm. Right. You're gonna feel the pressure to always perform, to always be great. Right, right. Or like a sense of entitlement. Yeah. You know, it's interesting, I, I'm not gonna say who, and it's not me, but there is a sibling set Now. All my friends are be like, is that mine?

Are my kids, isn't me? No. No. Well, the parents favored one of the, one of the brothers over the other one. Mm-hmm. Right? And they've never gotten along. They look just alike. I mean, they look like they should almost be twins. Mm-hmm. But there one was easier than the other. Yeah. And so one got everything.

Right. He's very entitled. The other one did not. Mm-hmm. The other one, you know, it was, I, I feel so bad for this one, for what he didn't get. And, and it really has caused a lot of issues with how they feel towards the parents now. Mm-hmm. You know, and the parents are like, Why, why are you not coming around?

Yeah. They, you're like,

[00:10:24] Randi: why want, they still don't real, they still don't have any realization of what they did.

[00:10:28] Jess: No, they have no idea. It's like that. Everyone loves Raymond. Remember that show Everyone loves Raymond. Yeah. Uhhuh, it's, it's that and that show is funny because it was true. I just aged myself. I know.

But that show is funny cuz it's true, is when you have a parent who is favoring a sibling. That other one, you know, they don't wanna be around you as much.

[00:10:50] Randi: Right. And this impacts your self-esteem. Mm-hmm. Sibling rivalry creates, like you said, a strain in family relationships. Right. And it's like, if you don't realize you're doing it, like how can you kind of address it?

And it's like, so.

[00:11:09] Jess: Well, and, and it creates tension between these siblings and a lot of times siblings have no idea why they don't get along right,

[00:11:16] Randi: or why they feel competitive or they need to one up each other all the time and. You know, your sibling should be like a support system and instead it's like your rival.

And this is in a way, a form of emotional

[00:11:31] Jess: abuse. Yes, it can be. Good job. I was just gonna, good job, Randy. This is a form of emotional abuse. Mm-hmm. Is by having a favoritism, a favorite, and treating the other as if they aren't, it is abuse. Yes. Good job. I mean, I right there labeling that. Nobody likes the A word.

I mean, nobody likes the abuse word cuz that's fine. Well, and

[00:11:52] Randi: people don't wanna be like, I'm abusing my kid emotionally. But if you can become self-aware that this is happening. Yes. And you can address it. You can reverse the effects of these things. You can work on healing those relationships and becoming a better example.

If you do that and you might realize, oh my gosh, this happened to me. That's why I am perpetuating like this example. If, even if you're not doing it intentionally, you know, but if you're wondering like, why don't my kids get along? Or like, why do I lean more one way to another? I am very self-aware that my kids are night and day and they are very night and day.

They're nine years apart too. Mm-hmm. And so same thing, I have to be very careful like. I have to give her things that she needs right now as a teenager and him things. And she goes, well, he gets all this. And I said, you don't remember, but I am very like honest. You got these things when you're, you were his age too.

I did these things. I said, let's remember that you are like, I can't believe he did this. And I'll be like, cuz she's like so annoyed with him and I'm like, You also used to draw on the walls. You also used to cut your hair. Like I don't, you know, when she thinks like it's skewed, I try to be like, let's remember.

Or sometimes I think, God, oh my God, like she's so much easier. But because she's a teenager and she's already been through these stages, and then I'll pause and be like, no, she actually wasn't in that time and that place. Yeah. And like same thing, like he doesn't love the things I love, but it's like, I'm like, but that's okay.

I would miss. Out on who he is. Yeah. If I didn't pay attention to all these cool things that he loves to do and he's excited about, I don't want another version of myself that's boring, like, you know. But a lot of people do. They gravitate towards what is comfortable and they want a version of themselves, and it's like, that's easy.

[00:13:49] Jess: Yeah, my kid is into some Gian Impact game. Oh my gosh. I have heard nothing about but Gian Impact? Gian Impact. Gian Impact at you're like, I don't know what that is. Yeah. I don't even, I looked at it, I was like, oh, I don't even know if I wanna look at this. Right. But I'm like, okay, I can make you a shirt.

You want a shirt that says this, right. I can make this. As long as it doesn't have the big anime boobs on it,

[00:14:08] Randi: I, I'm good. I'm down with it, but it's, I'm down. It's the same thing in any relationship and even like in a marriage and a partnership, I realized like, I don't like the things like my partner likes.

I don't love those things, but like he just wants me like there supporting him. Like he wanted to go look at a wood store with all this like crazy wood from like trees like cut down from like these beautiful pieces of wood. And I was like, Okay. Like, yay. And then I was just, but then I just loved him, loving that.

Mm-hmm. And that's what we can do for our kids is just show up for them. Love them where they're at, appreciate where they're at. Even if it's not what you want. Like you don't know who they're gonna turn into and what these things. And if you support them in those things, it could lead to something so beautiful

[00:14:54] Jess: and equally.

Support them equally. Yes. And really try to make it as even as you can. Mm-hmm. It's hard when you have like nine or 10 years in, in between,

[00:15:03] Randi: right? Oh yeah. A hundred percent. Yeah.

[00:15:05] Jess: You know, it was those things where it was like, I wish I could do the exact same things. And my thought process 10 years ago with him was, I wanna be able to know that I, I did what we could at the time for him there.

Right. Because I'm gonna do the same thing here. And granted, She might get a better car cuz she's gonna get my, hand me down while I go buy a new one. Yeah, right. It's gonna be the dog car too. But, you know, and he, we didn't have a ha we didn't have that opportunity 10 years ago to, to go buy a

[00:15:33] Randi: new car.

Right. And I talk about that with my daughter too. Is that, like when you're, and I, your dad and I had you, we were very young and we were very poor and we were struggling. So it's like, I'm not, I couldn't af. Afford the same things at that age that I can now for your brother, but you're also gonna get other things now that you can afford at this age, you know?

And it's like, uh, you know, I can do more for you at this point, but don't feel like it was less than. But again, that comes back to communicating about these things so your kid knows what you're thinking and where you're at because they don't know, they can't mind raid. They don't have the brain capacity either to understand your thought process and.

[00:16:14] Jess: In going with communication too, if you are an adult or even a, you know, a child listening, hopefully, cuz we're swearing all the time. But like if you are an adult and you know that you are in an unfair relationship, your parents are treating you differently, call it out. Yeah. You know, it is okay to call it out.

And if you're the one that's favored, it actually is okay for you two to call it out and say, Hey, that is not. Fair to treat me better or to give me more than giving my siblings. Yeah. I mean, really, truly, if you know it's happening, you're kind of being a dick if you don't call it out.

[00:16:48] Randi: Yeah. And talk to you if you're old enough to have those conversations with your sibling, you know, too.

Like, what, what is happening here? Like, and how can we kind of maybe approach this or say like, I wanna go to family counseling, I mean, You can know that you tried too on your end, like as a young adult too, to heal some things. And if they're not, you know, emotionally like aware or like open to reciprocating it, okay.

You tried, you know? Mm-hmm. And you did your hardest and you know where you're at and you can kind of. Grieve your own, you know, process in that and let it go. But

[00:17:25] Jess: you can empathize with your sibling as well and say, Hey, I'm really sorry brother, sister. I don't know why they treat you differently, but I see it.

Right, right. Because sometimes just by going I and I see it. Yeah. You're like, oh crap, I'm not crazy.

[00:17:39] Randi: Right. I see it. You're not alone. I think you're amazing at this. I love this about you. I, yeah. You can also, if you need to go outside of the family for support, you know, friends. Mm-hmm. You know, uncle, aunt, whoever too, if they see it too.

If you're an aunt or you're an uncle or you're a friend of the family, have that conversation with your sibling or your sister or your friend, like, Hey, I love you, but I see this Like why are you, we're silent about so many things we should not be, that can have a long lasting impact on our kids. Yeah, and.

[00:18:17] Jess: And I just wanna throw this out. Just so you know, this is not about my siblings, so Mom, please, I don't need, this is about don't internalize it. This is not about you. It's not about us. It's just something that I see that happens in a lot of families and they're not even aware that they have a favorite and they're like, why am I getting, why am I fighting with this one child so much?

Mm-hmm. I'm like, Maybe your child is trying to get your attention and you're giving negative attention because you're giving your positive over here. Right? I

[00:18:44] Randi: mean kids, a hundred percent. And I've had that conversation with my sister too, cuz she's like, why is the middle child acting so crazy? And I said, well, she's the middle child.

And because right now you have a baby. Yeah. And then the oldest is doing this and like acting all, you know, perfect. Cuz she has a better vocabulary and she can do more independently and she's easier. And this is new, you know? And I said, easy. You gotta think about all these things and. Put it into perspective.

[00:19:08] Jess: Yeah. Kids are gonna get your attention whether it's negative or positive, because guess what? It's still attention. Negative. Attention is still attention.

[00:19:16] Randi: Yeah. But no matter if you're 60, 80, 20, you can still work on rebuilding a relationship if you want, and trying to correct that if you have been in the wrong.

[00:19:27] Jess: If you want. And here's the other thing, right? If you don't want it is okay also to put up a boundary. Yep. Boundaries are amazing. If you're like, Nope, they're not going to hear me. It isn't going to change. I'm gonna put up my boundary and therefore it is no longer going to hurt me. So what? Do you remember what episode we did on Boundaries?

[00:19:49] Randi: Episode six, six. Boundaries. Listen to that. Boundaries like a. Mother. Mm-hmm. Yeah. You guys need them. You need them Boundaries help everything around us as women, as mothers, as caretakers, as siblings. Mm-hmm. As friends, as wives. You need boundaries. Work to Okay, off my horse. Go listen to it. Right. I want

[00:20:12] Jess: everyone out there who has more than one child.

Or who has siblings. I want you to take a look at how you treat both of 'em. I want to see are you treating them and putting the effort in the same for both. Mm-hmm. As much as you can. I don't expect 50 50, I don't expect perfection, but I want to see are you treating your children the same? And then if not, then I want you to make some changes.

Right? And are you being treated the same by your parents? And if not, Uh, you know, if it's safe, make some

[00:20:46] Randi: changes. Mm-hmm. Practice forgiveness too. Yes. For yourself, for others. Empathy. Have a little bit of understanding too. Maybe like you said, they just weren't self-aware. They couldn't face it. They had their own issues dealing with

[00:21:00] Jess: Oh, but oh, right there.

Randy, this is not about you. This is about them.

[00:21:04] Randi: Oh, this a hundred percent. Don't take on this. Yeah. This being treated differently, I mean, we do. I mean, the honesty is we take it on and we carry it and it has this lasting, horrible effect on it. But if we can learn. That, like you said,

[00:21:19] Jess: this is about them.

Yep. Not you. Even if you were a harder child, even if you had medical, it

[00:21:25] Randi: doesn't matter. You are still worthy. Yes. You are still worthy. I'm pounding my

[00:21:30] Jess: desk. She is. She is pounding her desk and like everything is vibrating here. Yeah. So I just had the word vibrate and she just cracked death. Laughing. Okay.

I don't know what you got in your death, so. Alright. Don't hold on to that, but I want y'all to, to really just let that piece go, right. Put up a boundary and know that it is not about you if you are not the favorite, it is not because you are unlovable or you are not worthy. You were

[00:22:00] Randi: worthy. And it doesn't make you worth worthy, a bad parent either to realize that this is happening.

Oh, good job. It makes you a good parent. To take the, that you took the time to try to understand if this is happening and how to correct it? Yes. You are thus not a bad apparent. Mm-hmm. Because you're trying Yes. Yes. Thank you guys for tuning in today for today's podcast on Squirrels, the Dark Side of Parenting,

[00:22:30] Jess: and we'll see you guys next week.

[00:22:33] Randi: Thanks for listening and normalizing mental health with us.

[00:22:37] Jess: Don't forget to check out our free resources and favorites on our website, unapologetically, randy and,

[00:22:43] Randi: like and share this episode, and tune in next week.


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Parental Favoritism Podcast Episode 38

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