Home » Blogs » Strength Over Adversity » Playing Favorites

Playing Favorites

It’s something a lot of parents do, but don’t like to admit it. I’m guilty of it, my friends are guilty of it, and some of the best moms and dads I know are guilty of it. Guilty of favoring one of their children over the others at some point during their childhood. Sometimes we favor and give more attention to one child over the other because they are performing better at school or excelling at sports. Sometimes one of our children becomes our favorite for the day for the simple reason that they were the only one who behaved on the car ride home from the grocery store. It doesn’t mean that we love our other children any less; it just means that for the moment, one child is catching more of our attention and garnering more of our praise.

But there are parents who exist who make it absolutely clear that one of their children is the “golden” child. The golden child that the other sibling will never hope to live up to and for them to try would be a waste of time. The child in the family that gets all of the attention, love, and affection while the other siblings are ignored and constantly compared to this seemingly perfect human being.

I was the ignored child in my family during my childhood. I was the “black sheep”, the mistake, and the waste of time. My mother didn’t want to have me, wanted to abort me when she found out she was pregnant with me, and I spent the rest of my life paying the price for her getting knocked up at the young age of 19. The way Mom treated me was cruel and terrible and I didn’t think that she had it in her to ever be a good mother; until she had my little sister.

My little sister, Mom’s “golden” child, and proof that Mom could be a good mother; she just couldn’t be a good mother to me. My little sister was the child Mom loved, the child Mom kissed, the child that Mom said “I Love You” to. My little sister was the child Mom would hold and rock in her lap after beating the hell out of me just moments before. On more than one occasion, I watched Mom rock my little sister in her rocking chair and kiss her head while I was nursing a bruised lip or a bloody nose, tears rolling down my face as I wondered why in the world she didn’t love me the way that she loved her.

I didn’t hate my little sister though; I didn’t blame her for being the recipient of Mom’s love and affection. You might think that I harbored deep resentment and anger towards her because of her “golden” child status, but I never did. I was extremely jealous and hurt over the relationship she had with Mom; but I put the blame on myself. I blamed myself; I assumed that I had done something terrible to make Mom hate me so much. I knew she could be a good, nurturing mother when she wanted to be; but for some reason, she couldn’t bring herself to do it for me.

Mom used her love of my sister as a weapon against me; her constant show of affection to my sister was a dagger to my heart and she knew it. She knew it broke me, she knew it made me cry, and I think my sadness and my pain gave her joy. It made Mom happy to know that not only could she hurt me physically; she could hurt me mentally by showing me that she could love someone and just refused to love me.

I can never blame my little sister for that. I can never have hatred in my heart for someone who received a mother’s love, and I can recognize that it was never her fault that Mom loved her and not me.

Playing favorites with our children is common and I think it is a very normal part of every sibling’s childhood. There is always some point where one child feels left out, feels like their brother or sister is getting more attention than they are, and may even feel unloved. But that is a part of growing up and something that many families go through. I have had moments with my two sons where I felt more connected to one than the other, but that doesn’t mean that I love them any differently. The difference between parents like me and parents like my mother is that my children both know I love them with all of my heart, even if I can’t give them both of them all of the attention they want right when they want it.

Wrap your arms around each of your children every single day, kiss them on the head, and tell them how much you love them. A little bit of love goes a long way.


Playing Favorites

Sarah Burleton NY Times bestselling author

Victoria Gigante Writes For Psych CentralSarah Burleton was born in a little town in Illinois to a very emotionally disturbed woman. Her first book, her child abuse memoir "Why Me," spent 26 weeks on the New York Times and the print version is endorsed by David Pelzer, author of "A Child Called It." Sarah is now realizing her goal in becoming an ambassador for abused children and adult survivors and is currently conducting workshops and seminars throughout the state. Her message of strength over adversity and her story will help counselors, teachers, and other professionals identify signs of abuse and learn ways to establish trust with an abused child.

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
, . (2017). Playing Favorites. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 4, 2020, from


Last updated: 20 Jul 2017
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.