rebecca asks: I am 16, and have a 20-year-old sister who my parents love more than me. They’re always telling me I’m good-for-nothing. I mostly do all the hard work like cleaning the house and washing the dishes, and when I am tired, they just tell me get back to work again, and don’t even say a word to my elder sister. If I ask for something, they say no, but if she asks, they give it to her. My parents hate me and hardly appreciate anything good I do. They hardly say any good words to me, and don’t mind if I sleep hungry for weeks. But I don’t hate my sister – I like her – but I can’t stand anymore of our parents’ inappropriate behavior! No matter if I’m right, they always say I’m wrong; many people tell them what a bright and good child I am, but they still don’t change. I don’t know what to do! Please help me!
Hi rebecca –
I just can’t be the only one who reads this and thinks “Well I know the solution to her problem, and it involves a prince, some mice, and a pair of glass slippers!” You really are living the life of Cinderella, rebecca. But since I’m only a dog, and not a fairy godmother, I can only offer advice, and not a magical coach!
I think there are two important issues here. First, there’s the issue of the favoritism your parents are showing your sister. In terms of that, check out my letter to Bella about a similar problem (just type “Bella” into the search box to your right on this page).
But your problem sounds worse than Bella’s, rebecca. It really sounds like your parents look down on you, and regard you as less than your sister. For this, as I told Bella, I would suggest talking with them. But in this case, I’d ask them what specifically they dislike about you.
Now there’s a really good chance that they’ll be shocked by the question, and insist that they don’t dislike you at all. But even just the asking might make them aware of any disdain they’re putting onto you.
But if they actually have some answers? If they say, “Yeah, Rebecca, here’s why we don’t like you as much as your sister…”? Then I want you to listen very closely. Even write down what they say. And save it. And look over it later, when you’re feeling calmer.
And I want you to ask yourself a question, and to treat it with as much honesty and strength as you possibly can: Do I Believe They’re Right? Maybe they’ll point out something about you that you’d never noticed before; if that’s the case, then great, this is a chance to change something that might be keeping you from making friends too. Maybe they’ll say something you’ve always known; if so, then this is proof you really need to change these qualities as you can.
But if you truly believe they’re wrong, that they’re criticizing something about you that isn’t true at all, then you have the incredibly difficult job of living with that fact. I’ve known beautiful healthy teen girls who get told by parents that they’re fat when they’re not. And it would be devastating to those girls’ health if they believed it and tried to lose a bunch of weight. So they have to live with the fact that their parents are simply wrong.
So I’ve sent you a lot here, rebecca, but your situation is really a lot too! So see what you can do, with it, and just know that I, and everyone who reads this, is totally on your side.
Life will get better!