Siblings and a horrid parent

Unfortunately there is no escape from a horrid parent whether you are their only child or one of several.  The only thing that changes is how they demean you.  

A difficult parent can single out one child, within the family, belittle them and constantly find fault with whatever they do.  They may manipulate one or all the children to set them up against each other.  Or keep changing the child they pick on as the mood takes them.  This is particularly undermining as none of the children know where they stand and they may all feel vulnerable and insecure.   Or they might pick on all the siblings except for one ‘star’ child who in their eyes can do no wrong. Whatever the situation, it is unbearably unfair to see others favoured and it leads to intense feelings of rivalry and jealousy.

Just as no two families are the same, siblings react to each other in many different ways.  They can be tremendously supportive and soften the pain that a horrid parent can cause. A kind older sibling might be tender and caring for a younger sibling, read them stories and comfort them when they cry.


Or they can gang up and bully the sibling in question, making that sibling’s childhood even more unhappy. They might call that sibling unkind names, put them down by laughing at their efforts and sneering at their failures.

Followers of our website have revealed some shocking but true stories of how their parent behaved.  For example in one family three of the four children were sent to private schools while the fourth was not. The reason she was given was: ‘you’ll never amount to anything.’ 

Another parent let two of their daughters learn to drive when they were seventeen, but left out the third who was told ‘you are so stupid you will probably kill someone.’

These examples and countless more help reinforce the truth that it is not a child’s fault that he or she has a horrid parent.

If you are the one singled out for endless criticism, one way to cope is to try and share positive times with your siblings, but it only works if they are sympathetic towards you.  If instead they gang up against you, as hard as it is you need to drawfrom yourself the determination to build up your self-esteem and confidence.  Try talking, carefully at first, to a trusted adult. It may also help if you can develop an emotional distance from the family while also reminding yourself that what you are experiencing as a child will not last forever. 

See our What Makes a Horrid Parent and the Coping pages on the website for more suggestions.    


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