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When parents treat you unfairly, let resentment go

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Parents' favoritism is unfair but what to do with that is up to you

Q: I recently admitted to my parents that I feel slighted that they couldn't afford to keep me at XYZ University for undergrad, but now they are willing pay for my brother to go to ABC University for graduate school, which costs almost four times more. They were really upset and basically called me ungrateful. I am now in grad school and paying my own way. It seems like they refuse to see my point of view. I was accused of not being proud that my brother got into this top-notch school. And while I was trying to talk to them, they walked away from me.

I'll be home all weekend. Any thoughts on how to lessen the potential awkwardness?

Accused Ingrate

Carolyn: Is there an evidence-backed history of their favoring your brother? Or is this the first time you've felt stung?

Accused Ingrate again: This feeling has been eating away at me for years. I have always felt like he was the golden child. He has no missed opportunities; he was never told he couldn't do something because it was too expensive. They always "made a way." My brother has admitted observing this as well.

Carolyn: I'm really sorry. It's one of the crummiest things parents can do to their kids. Not just to you, but also to your brother, since favoritism often creates friction between the siblings. And, while there are plenty of kids who use their advantages well, my in-box is crammed with stories of these indulged, clearly favored kids who wind up stunted by their own expectations.

But there are some good things here, too, even great. It's great that your brother has acknowledged this to you. Validation is huge here, as is communication between sibs. You may not feel as if your parents have your back, but if your brother does, then that's not only love and support from a family member, that's justice. Too often in these situations, a favored child would compete with you, or try to defend/justify his unfair advantage.

And while it would be better if the favoritism never happened, at least now you know the truth. You no longer need to look to your parents as sources of fairness, because that ship has sailed.

So now you can make a choice: Wallow in bitterness, or liberate yourself from your old expectations of yourself and your family, and take pride in what you accomplished after you were handed this clear disadvantage.

Re: Accused Ingrate: So how the heck does he deal with the parents when he has to be home with them? What, if anything, does he say?


Carolyn: If — and only if — they bring it up, he says, "It's your money to spend as you please; it just hurt my feelings, that's all. I'm still grateful for what I have, and I'm proud of what I've done with it." (I'm using "he" because you did; no sex was given.)

Otherwise, it's time to leave this behind.

Either way, his weekend mission is to start seeing this as who they are, not who he is. It's difficult, but it will free him, where hoping they'll be fair or acknowledge their unfairness will only continue to haunt.

When parents treat you unfairly, let resentment go 07/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 27, 2010 12:20am]
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