Life as a Least-Favorite Child: What It's Like and How to Cope

Published June 21, 2021
Life as a Least-Favorite Child

If you're experiencing life as a least favorite child, you feel like your parents favor your siblings over you. Favoritism can be hard to deal with whether you're a child, a teenager, or an adult who experienced this imbalance of treatment during childhood. No matter your age, it's helpful to gain a better understanding of what life is like as the least favorite child, how it affects you, and how you can cope.

How Favoritism Can Look

Depending on each family's unique situation, there may be different reasons why the least favorite child dynamic exists. Following are some ways that parents may exhibit favoritism.

Imbalance of Quality Time Spent

Perhaps you feel like the least favorite because your parents spend more time with your sibling(s) than with you. If your mom or dad shares the same interests as your sibling, this could lead to more quality time spent together. For example, if you enjoy reading in your free time, and your sibling and parents like to play basketball, your parents may naturally spend more time shooting hoops with them, while you read a book.

Additionally, if your sibling is involved in organized sports, between driving them to practices, watching their games, and making conversation in the car, that takes up a lot of your parents' time. If you are the oldest child, you might notice that your parents spend more time with your younger siblings than they did with you. One possibility for this is that their current job or schedule gives them more time than they had before your siblings came along.

Amount of Money Spent

You might notice that your parents tend to dole out more money on your siblings than they spend on you. One possibility for this is that your siblings happen to be involved in hobbies that are more expensive than yours. For instance, dance performance costumes or sports equipment can cost a lot more money compared to yoga, writing, or cooking.

Praising Older Siblings

If you are the younger child, you might notice your parents praising your oldest sibling a lot more than you. Perhaps your sibling does better in school than you do, and you often hear your parents bragging about them to others. The difficulty with being a younger child in the family is that your older sibling had the chance to be an only child before you were born. The undivided attention they got back then might have helped to strengthen some abilities in them.

Giving Different Privileges

If you're the oldest child in your family, it might seem like your younger siblings get more privileges than you did. Maybe your parents allow them to have more screen time, participate in more extracurricular activities, or begin dating at an earlier age. It might be helpful to know that in such cases, it's likely that your parents don't like or favor your siblings more than you. Rather, they are no longer new to parenting the way they were when you were born. This could lead them to be more relaxed with your siblings because they've gone through the experiences with you already. Maybe they learned that it's fine if they are more lax on some rules that they strictly followed with you. No matter the reason, it can still hurt to feel like the least favorite child, and your feelings are normal and valid.

What a Least Favorite Child May Experience

Least favorite children can experience various repercussions based on how they feel they're perceived. Some include:

  • Feeling sad, angry or hurt
  • Low self-esteem, or feeling bad about themselves
  • Feeling left out of activities
  • Fighting with siblings
  • Acting out or getting into trouble
  • Less motivation in school
  • Poor school performance
  • Skipping school
  • Using drugs or alcohol
  • Feeling down or depressed

The good news is, there are things least favorite children can do to cope. With such life problems, taking action and actually doing something helps to lower symptoms of depression, because you feel more in control of your situation.

Bored Teen Girl

Coping Strategies for Kids Who Feel They're the Least Favorite

  • Talk with your parents about how you feel. You can say, "I feel sad because it seems like you spend more time with my brother than me."
  • Ask for something you would like from your parents. For instance, "Will you go on a bike ride with me this afternoon?"
  • If school is hard for you, ask your mom or dad to spend some alone time with you each week to help with your homework.
  • If you are a teenager or college student who needs some financial help you might say something like "Mom, I need help paying for books for this semester. Since I haven't needed money from you in a while, I was hoping you could help?"
  • Talk to a professional such as a therapist or school counselor.
  • Suggest to your parents that you all try family counseling.

Feelings of Least Favorite Children in Adulthood

If you felt like the least favorite child as a kid, as an adult you might be experiencing:

  • Anger and disappointment
  • Feeling less accomplished compared to your favored sibling
  • Being withdrawn from your sibling
  • Conflict with your sibling

These feelings are normal and understandable. Even though favoritism was shown when you were young, childhood experiences are critical, and can affect you in adulthood. Moreover, favoritism in childhood naturally affected your sibling relationship as you were growing up, and therefore it continues to impact your relationship currently. That doesn't mean that you can't make changes in adulthood or strengthen your relationship with your sibling if you so desire. The important thing is to take active steps towards making the changes you want to see.

Coping Strategies for Adults Who Were Least Favorite Children

  • Seek therapy to discover how your childhood experiences have affected you and your sense of self, what you want to accomplish, and to get help with achieving your goals.
  • Tell your sibling how you feel. For example, "I feel sad that we have become so distant."
  • Ask your sibling for what you want. For instance, "I would like to spend more time with you. Why don't we check out the new farmer's market on Saturday?"
  • Suggest co-joint counseling for you and your siblings in order to better understand each other and enhance your communication.

Communication Is Key

Even if your parents aren't intentionally favoring you less than your siblings, your feelings are very real. Keeping these feelings to yourself can make your experience even harder. Therefore, healthy communication and a deeper understanding are the first steps to improving your relationships with your parents or siblings.

Life as a Least-Favorite Child: What It's Like and How to Cope