Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you realize that your parent loves your sister more than they love you. Or when you find out that they paid for your brother’s new car but wouldn’t even consider buying you a used one. It hurts, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re just not good enough. But before you start wallowing in self-pity, take a step back and ask yourself if there might be another explanation for your parent’s behavior. After all, it’s possible that they don’t actually favor one child over another — they may just be showing their love in different ways. Here are six ways a parents favor one child over another, and why they might be an inaccurate conclusion.

1. They constantly compare you to your sibling.

If your parent is always comparing you to your sister or brother—pointing out how they’re smarter/better looking/more successful—it’s a pretty clear sign that they favor them over you. Alternatively, they may try to pit you against each other in a competition for their affection, which is just as unhealthy. Either way, it’s not a good sign.

2. They give one child more attention than the others.

Do you feel like your parent is always talking to your sibling but never has time for you? Do they go on special outings with one child but never include you? If so, it’s possible that they’re showing favoritism. On the other hand, it could just be that they have different interests and relationship dynamics with each of their children. So don’t jump to conclusions too quickly.

3. They openly criticize one child while praising the others.

Another common sign of favoritism is when a parent criticizes one child while gushing over the others—for example, telling you that you’re lazy but praising your sibling for their great work ethic. This type of behavior can be extremely damaging to a child’s self-esteem, so it’s important to be on the lookout for it.

4. They make unfair comparisons between their children.

This is similar to #1 but with a slightly different twist. Here, instead of constantly comparing you to your siblings, your parent makes unfair comparisons—like saying things like “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” or “Your brother would never behave like this.” Unfair comparisons can be just as damaging as direct comparisons and should be avoided at all costs.

5. They give one child preferential treatment.

Preferential treatment is when a parent gives one child special privileges or advantages that are not afforded to the other children—like letting them stay out later, giving them access to the family car, or funding their college education while expecting the others to pay their own way. If your parent is guilty of this, then it’s pretty clear that they have a favorite. But again, it could just be that they see more potential in one child than the others, so don’t rush to judgement.

6. They have different expectations for their children.

This is similar to #5 but with slightly different expectations. For example, maybe your parent expects you to get straight As in school while letting your sibling skate by with Cs. Or maybe they’re more lenient with bedtime rules for one child but enforce stricter rules for the others. If this is happening in your family, then there’s a good chance that favoritism is at play.

While it can be hurtful and frustrating to think that our parents might favor one child over another, often there’s a perfectly good explanation for their behavior. Before jumping to any conclusions, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate the situation from all angles. Only then will you be able to tell if favoritism is really at play or if there’s another reason behind your parent’s actions.

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