How to Fight Rampant Parental Favoritism in Our World

Marina and Gregory Slayton.
Marina and Gregory Slayton. | (Photo: Courtesy Thomas Nelson)

"Mom Says/Dad Says," an exclusive Christian parental advice column by Gregory Slayton, former U.S. Ambassador to Bermuda and author of the best-selling book Be a Better Dad Today: Ten Tools Every Father Needs, and his wife, Marina Slayton, author of the new book Be The Best Mom You Can Be. The Slaytons have been featured on Fox and Friends, Focus on the Family Radio and numerous other media outlets. They donate 100% of their royalties from parenting books to fatherhood and family nonprofits.

Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, Governors Jeb Bush and Sam Brownback and Pastors Tim Keller and Luis Palau, among others, have endorsed the Slaytons. In their exclusive series for The Christian Post, both Marina and Gregory will answer thoughtful Christian parents seeking to raise their children up in the goodness of the Gospel and the Glory of God. If you would like to have Marina and Gregory answer your questions, please contact them via

Parent's Question:

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This is a question about myself and my parents and favoritism. When I was young I was my father's favorite but my mother always favored my sister. My father died a few years ago and my mother is in control of the estate. My Mom is basically giving most of the estate to my sister. This makes me both sad and deeply angry. How can I honor my father's memory and not give in to my anger towards my Mom and sister?

Mom Says: 

Favoritism is a cancer that runs in too many families like cancer. In fact it is as old as time. In the Bible, the lives of the patriarchs reveal generations of parents who allowed favoritism to bring disaster on their families. As a direct result, we see envy and bitterness that poisoned multiple generations (think of Joseph being sold into slavery by his own brothers as just one example of many). In a recently published book titled "The Sibling Effect" the author asserts that 70 percent of fathers and 65 percent of all moms evidence favoritism.

A parent who chooses to esteem and honor one child over the others sets in motion a long term train wreck. The child who is disfavored will either come to dislike the parents and/or feel badly about the child who was favored. The favored child also does not benefit in the long run. Jealousy is corrosive, a jealous sibling is a dangerous person to have in one's life. Don't be jealous of your sister — and don't be bitter with your mom. By giving in to your emotions you are prolonging your agony and giving them power of your life and emotions.

I myself came from a family that was rife with favoritism. In the end I had to witness a completely unfair distribution of my parent's estate that was orchestrated by a sibling who directly benefited himself. In the end I realized that his selfishness was utterly unimportant. What was important was to forgive (not trust — that is an entirely different matter) and to move on. We continue to work hard to establish in our own nuclear family a new pattern that breaks the generational curse of favoritism.

Dad Says:  Harboring bitterness in our hearts is like swallowing poison and waiting for the other person to die. That's why Jesus taught us to pray "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us." Forgiveness isn't just good for the person being forgiven … it is good for our soul.

With respect to your sister, there are things you can do to bring some reconciliation. First, please don't be anxious about the estate (after all, it is just stuff). We must always look to our Heavenly Father for our provision. Jesus taught us NOT to worry about stuff, but that like the birds of the air we must learn to trust our Heavenly Father to cloth and feed and provide for us as we put first His Kingdom and His glory. Trust me. If you do that, He will keep His end of the bargain. Secondly, let her know that you love her. The Bible tells us that "Love never fails." In the end love is the most powerful force in the universe. Use it for good.

And be sure not to give in to the curse of favoritism with your own children. If we do so, we are also depriving our children of the the most important relationships in the lives: the sustaining friendships of their siblings. There is no one like your bother or sister with whom to share memories, laugh about old stories, and yes, grieve over deaths in the family. Brothers and sisters should be best of friends. We thank God that is true in our family. But favoritism is a sure way to kill close sibling friendships. So be sure not to let favoritism be a curse in your own family. Use your experience to make sure your children don't go through the same negative pattern.

Your kids need to be like the Three Musketeers: all for one, and one for all. Raise your kids not to compete with each other — it is critical that they are not jealous of each other's success. In our family, our kids love spending time with each other and they like nothing better than family vacations. Given the big issues of parental favoritism in both of our extended families, this is miracle that we don't take for granted.

It is imperative to be honest about negative generational patterns in our family lines because with God's help we can be healed. Otherwise, you or your children could be doomed to repeat the sins of past generations. Take what is a difficult situation with your mom and sister and use it as a guide not to replicate what has come before. God came to free us from generational curses … but this only comes with honesty and discipline. Check yourself to see that you are not favoring one child over another. Work with your husband to be sure each child knows that they are loved and cherished equally.

We cannot change the past but we can learn from it. Let's all make sure that the curse of favoritism is not a curse in our own families.

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