Dear Thelma: My parents treat me unfairly, always side with elder sis


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Dear Thelma,

I’m really sad, desperate and heartbroken. I feel very frustrated with my family’s unfair treatment.

We always argue – at least once a month.

I am the youngest in the family and only have an elder sister.

My parents always listen to my elder sister and back her up, no matter if she’s right or wrong or has a bad attitude. They always think that I’m wrong and boycott me, no matter what I say or do.

This time, we got into an argument because my mum just doesn’t understand that I want some privacy in my room.

There are two rooms in our house. Sis often walks in and out of my room to do something while I am sleeping or studying. I’m a full-time worker and a part-time student.

Rest time and study time are both very important to me. I feel very tired after working from Monday to Friday and on alternate Saturdays.

I just don’t want people to disturb me when I'm in my room.

I tried to talk to my mum politely but she just didn’t want to listen to me. When I got angry, they all thought that I wanted to cause trouble, and started to scold me unreasonably.

My elder sister wants to chase me out of the house. Why? The house doesn’t even belong to her.

My parents listened to my elder sister and asked me to move out of the house too. I was heartbroken when they said that. I had thought of moving out before but the time is not right. What am I supposed to do?

Whenever my elder sister asks my parents to send her somewhere, they are willing to do so even if they’re busy. However, when I ask them to fetch me or go out shopping with me, they will say they are busy and then ask me to go by myself.

My relationship with my elder sister is not good at all because of their unfair treatment.

When my elder sister gets angry, my parents dare not scold her but when I get angry, they all scold me and are unreasonable towards me.

If they think their elder child is the best, why did they have another child? Do they care for my feelings as the younger one?

I’m really not happy living with this kind of family.

SM


I'm sorry you're having a bad time. I can see the hurt in your letter, and the sadness at the thought that your parents don't treasure you.

As you describe it, your parents have a favourite child who can do no wrong. It's quite common, and on social media discussions people would call your older sister a Golden Child.

Favouritism leads to several issues. It fuels sibling rivalry, and sometimes outright dislike for the favoured kid by the other siblings.

Second, it leads to the non-favoured kids not trusting their parents. When they are adult, they may disconnect in order to protect themselves from the pain of feeling unloved.

Finally, all kids yearn to be loved by their parents, so when the love just doesn't seem to be there, the unfavoured kids may suffer from stress, anxiety and depression.

Curiously, being a Golden Child may look good but such kids often become anxious, people-pleasing, and they typically lack relationship skills. In addition, they have low self-esteem and become defensive and hostile when dealing with criticism or failure.

It's important to realise this is a parenting issue, or to put it bluntly, a parenting failure. It affects you but please know this is not something you created or invited.

Also, in families where parents have a favourite, they often love their other kids too. It's just less obvious.

Therefore, I hope that you wrote the letter in a fit of temper. When we're angry we tend to see things quite darkly, so if you were furious, have a second think.

Start by looking for signs they love you. Parents have a duty to feed, clothe, house and educate their kids. However, loving parents do a lot more.

Ask where they went the extra mile. For example, maybe they spend time in the day chatting with you? Or they pay for your post-school studies? Or they support you in some other way?

I hope you can find signs that they do care for you.

However, this does not take away from the fact that they practise favouritism. When you lashed out at your sister and pointed out you were treated unfairly, I think you hoped to get assurance that you are loved. And perhaps some more time together.

Sadly, your parents asked you to move out. I'm sorry, that must hurt. However, it is possible that this fight may lead to some positive change.

As figuring out dysfunctional family dynamics is tricky, talk to a therapist who specialises in family and abuse.

During sessions, they will help you work out exactly what's going on. Once you have that, you can figure out if and where you can make effective change.

Note that this may be a slow process. When a family has worked a certain way for many years, it can be hard to change.

You will likely have to change too. From your letter, you will have to learn to argue nicely, to control your temper, and to communicate in a healthier style.

You were asked to move out, but I can't tell if that was said in the heat of the moment or whether they meant it. However, as you've already considered it, discuss the hows and whens in therapy.

I think it's important you don't see moving out as confirmation you're not wanted. Instead, see it as the next stage of growing up, and an opportunity for change.

Generally speaking, a reset can help foster better relationships. Once you are away from home, everyone can re-evaluate and hopefully connect in happier ways.

Good luck, and know I'm thinking of you. May 2023 bring you lots of joy.

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