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Yetunde Olasiyan: Parents & their Roles in Sibling Rivalry & Favouritism



dreamstime_l_40645264Growing up among siblings is always fun especially if you are all close in age. But if you happen to be the most intelligent among the pack, it might not be so much fun altogether. Being intelligent isn’t even an issue. Of course, you can’t help it. But being compared to your siblings if they do not measure up. This inadvertently sets you up for resentment, jealousy and bitterness which if not checked might develop into adulthood.

It is common among Nigerian families to see siblings who rarely talk to each other, who prevent their kids from playing with their cousins or even visit. These siblings only meet when there is an important family function with each person trying to outdo the other in an unnecessary competition. How did it all start?

From the home, when an African parent would say, give that toy to your younger brother/sister. You are the elder. Even if the younger brother/sister has been playing with such toy all day before he picked it.

It starts when parents try to come in between sibling quarrels and begin to throw their weight behind their favourite. Then, African parents have a way of relegating the elder to the background by always telling him/her to give in to the younger ones. They believe you should be more matured and mustn’t share their things.
The elder takes the blame too sometimes when things go wrong because he should know best.

Now, if a particular child is very intelligent, no matter his position in the family whether eldest or youngest, parents literally shove his attributes down the throat of the other children. Not only are they setting the favourite up for resentment, they are building long term bitterness and rancour which will even last till when those parents are no more.
It is often said that it is human nature for parents to have favourites among their kids. They say it is inevitable. We have all witnessed this while growing up. If you were the favourite child, chances are you had a lovely childhood with unrivalled closeness with either of your parents, while you probably had problems with some or most of your siblings.
There are families whereby the sibling rivalry does not occur very early in life. It happens later when each child has become an adult and they are settled in different fields. Yes, all of them are very successful but then, some fields are more attractive than the other and pays more. This brings a silent ‘beef’. Of course, they still love one another, but occasionally two will gang up against two or three against one. What makes them tick is that they always settle and move on.

However, there are families whereby only one is richer and more successful than the rest. If he doesn’t grow airs, they all manage to cope. But as soon as he begins to do what no one in the family has ever done or achieved, rancour begins.
Sibling rivalry..will it ever go away? Is it only parents that cause it? Or siblings themselves due to unhealthy comparisons about who has more wealth or who is more beautiful/handsome?

The issue of sibling rivalry is way deeper than this and has only been scratched on the surface, because there are so many factors that contributes to it.

Let’s all come to the round table. Have you experienced it? How did you or how are you coping? Do you love your siblings wholeheartedly? Be sincere. You know it is often said that the only people who don’t mind your being successful more than them are your parents. Every other person will get jealous at a certain stage, if you do better than them(including your siblings). What sayeth thou?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

M.Sc International Affairs&Diplomacy, ABU, Zaria|| B.Tech Environmental Biology, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso|| 1st Prize Winner, SouthWest Nigeria-CLO Essay Competition on Child Labour in Nigeria|| 5th Prize Winner, Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation Essay Competition|| Certificate of Participation, World Bank Essay Competition|| Author of A Gift of Dreams|| [email protected]|| Former Content Editor,|| Ghostwriter, Editor, Profile Writer|| Nike|| Olasiyan|| For writing enquires email [email protected]


  1. thank you

    June 13, 2016 at 10:57 am

    i should send this to my mother

    • person

      June 13, 2016 at 11:16 am

      Me too.. my brothers just hate on me cos I’m cute and the smartest. My younger bro has been fighting me physically ever since I could imagine and I know it’s jealousy but I still love him to death.

      Oh and well written, writer 🙂

    • Self-Sufficient

      June 13, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      As in, na serious wahala. However, I thank the Almighty for His Grace and my will to not let naysayers tear me down or control me. If I were weak and mentally unstable, na so dem go hear say person don commit suicide (depression) because e never marry.

      Tufiakwa!!! At this point, I am swatting every negative family member like flies. They might get an invitation if I find my suitor by 40. LOL!!!


    June 13, 2016 at 11:51 am

    My mom compared me all the time to me immediate as it relates to study! My elder sister didn’t need to be prompted to read and I must say she’s doing well for herself! We obviously have our issues on certain things but she’s 5 years older than myself any attempt to carry it further go tire me as there are things I reach out to for her for advise. My dad choose my eldest sister to us, we felt it was cos she looked like him compared to the rest of us, but now that we r older, all that is behind us. My siblings actually feel I’m my moms favorite now and I see myself defending her to them and them to her, but we quickly moved pass this. We plan trips together, have a what’s app group and keep in touch so in all we will work it out among ourselves.

  3. xxxx

    June 13, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I don’t know what u re talking about. Change ur piqshure.

  4. deb

    June 13, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    GOD bless you for this write up. It is a sensitive topic that has not been looked upon.
    Sibling rivalry as far as I am concerned are *mostly* cause by mothers.(example the role of Rachel between Jacob and Esau in the bible)
    My own case, im the first child. My mum just amazes me.

    While we were growing up. My sister was very intelligent. I was intelligent too but she was more intelligent. I became the assistant head girl in my pri sch. In secondary school, I was the social prefect. My sis would now take my belt go to school ahead of me so that I don’t get a belt to wear. I did not know at first because I always keep looking for the belts, get late to school and could not make announcements on the assembly ground. My sister would come to my class at the end of the day and start shouting that we have to start going home. I was the most intelligent in my class and was also social so I used to hang around with boys after school hours gisting. I love to wear fine clothes too so on my was from sch. I branch market and buy beautiful pieces of clothes(my cousin took some of these clothes for her summer holiday). We have family friends too that we do stuffs together(school and home visiting) one of them was suppose to be my sister’s friends but after few visits to our house(her mum is my aunt’s friend) she became my friend. One day I was seeing her off and she just told me that my sis said my mum said she will be giving her money to buy fine clothes like the ones I wear. I was just fifteen years old.

    Fast forward in life, now I’m a lawyer, while I was in school, my sister told me she too she would go and study law( she never got to the uni and her lowest jamb score was 255). The year I got married she said she would also get married same year. She comes to my house and take my things without my knowledge. While I was pregnant, I was very sick&needed someone to cook for me she was in lagos but my mum said *every one has their lives to live* she came while I was still sick, begged her to make me custard in the evening she said* hey I’m not your maid* my hubby just stood up and made it for me. I started making money early in life I transfer money to my siblings every week without their request just to have extra cash to spend not that my parents can’t cater for them. When I was broke I could not get 200 naira credit from any of them and my mum could not address it. I needed cash, I even told my bro that he can keep some jewellery that I will give him that week he says he has to do something important with money( he wanted to buy I phone 6) there was a day I needed 2k. My bro sent me fake alert message that he sent me money meanwhile some months back I gave him 40k to repair his mac air. That was when I gave up&reported all to my father. He dint seem surprised. I have a lot to say but I will have to write a book about it. Anytime I tell my mum if my sis can just help do something, she just begins to shout every one has their life to live, blah blah blah. I have found my strength in GOD and my peace in him. I develop my personality every day and hope to be a trail blazer in my generation. I will never favour one child to the other. It breaks the help they are suppose to render each other to be a better person because no man is an island

    • Bridget

      June 13, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      You are making the same mistake most siblings make. Were u giving ur siblings money out of love or were u sowing in them for future. Always remember whatever u do, u are not doing it to please man. In life the people u help the most are the ones that will reluctantly help u in ur time of need.
      Also it seems u bear grudges, that is not healthy, learn to forget because keeping a grudge leads to bitterness. For me, bitterness is deadlier than cancer. Just live a good life.

    • deb

      June 13, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      Bridget thank you. It was out of love. They dint ask for it. It was like hey take your self out or buy some clothes. My parents are quite comfortable to provide for us.
      I’m not holding grudges. My younger brother lives with me. I’m just showing you what my mum has planted in them. I won’t say a lot now. I’m stil gonna write a book about it.

    • bodunade

      June 13, 2016 at 8:13 pm

      Fake alert. Original 419.. Why do I find it funny? Lol

    • Tosin

      June 14, 2016 at 7:19 am

      long time ago i had a psychologist with whose help i learned to be an asshole. i pray you find it in your heart to be an asshole. softness can kill.

  5. i must talk

    June 13, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    This issue is tearing/torn my hubby’s family apart! unfortunately, their mother who ignited the fire died this early this year. I have learnt my lesson as a mother… abi naw. This issue is not only limited to the family unit but also at work (office). one person is forgiven over a small error, while another is sacked for same!

  6. Iphee

    June 13, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Parents in my opinion take a large chunk of the blame for sibling rivalry. Right from childhood when starting from mundane things like food to toys ( the older child ALWAYS has to defer to the younger one….. Why not get everyone his/her own or if is absolutely necessary make sure said item is shared by ALL )
    How about when they become grown up’s where most Nigerian parents will “kow tow’ to or “love’ the child who has the most means materially. Love gets measured by how much you have in the bank. Its ALL shades of wrong I have seen parents take sides in a fight with the richer kid ( irrespective of who was wrong)
    Another example is my mum’s friend with 4 daughters who constantly says the last one is her best to the hearing of everyone including the other daughters….. So not right in my opinion.
    As humans it is inevitable we will prefer one thing over another ( including our children) but let’s try to be sensitive & wise enough to hide it from them

  7. mee

    June 13, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    Wow!..was soo annoyed on saturday coz my mum never listens to me when I complain about the unfair favouritism she shows towards my younger sister..instead of being d middle ground, she immediately just shuts me up, making me feel soo low..I get so upset I sometimes cry about it, but in my nature I still love that said sibling like I love d is well!..lovely write up by d way 🙂

  8. Sisi

    June 13, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    This is definitely a sensitive and exasperated issue in Nigerian households I think. Parents, moreso mothers really don’t help the situation especially in the early life of their children (give your aburo the last food, abaya this/that, can’t you set the example for your siblings etc.) which sets individual siblings up with complexes – inferiority, entitlement. I believe once you get to adulthood it is your duty to reshape and reprogramme the way you think about yourself in relation to your parents and siblings. Where possible always try to be self-reliant – which I know sounds strange given that your siblings and parents should be there for you but this is honestly how I deal with such feelings. I don’t rely to heavily on any of them to make me feel fulfilled, I lend a hand when I can but don’t expect too much back. This has resulted in resentment for the longest but on the whole it doesn’t affect how I see myself more how I see them. I was never the favourite child, more the favourite adolescent as I was simply just the good girl – well behaved, school results on point and helpful. I’ve learnt now that it’s not about pleasing my parents moreso doing what makes me happy. In dealing with jealousy, I always bind such thoughts as I know they are not of God rather the flesh. How this will all pan out as we continue to grow up and start having children etc. only God knows. The one thing I will say is that the love is real and comparable to nothing else between my siblings and I no matter how much we fight/argue/disagree. No one can come in between us. This is where I think you might need external help if when push comes to shove you cannot be there for your sibling – to an extent sibling rivalry can only be expected. As humans we are always comparing ourselves, it helps us to evaluate our performance and why not start with those closest to us.

  9. OJ

    June 13, 2016 at 2:54 pm

    See as all this talk na for butter children….i started facing life headlong from a young kid, so whether mama favours one sibbling above me or not, it doesnt concern me…i did my own thing without looking at uche’s face!!!

  10. Single Shalewa, Bitter Bintu!

    June 13, 2016 at 4:47 pm

    Very inspiring post. In my case, I’m actually my mum’s favorite and sadly my siblings know. I do understand my mum’s POV – i didn’t have our dad around, they did, he left my mum shortly after she concieved. Secondly, mumsy says everytime that i never gave her issues – my sisters were very wayward while growing up and trust me, my mum has always been a great mother, Mumsy went through hell straightening them out to no avail. It saddens me everytime. And I’m also the most intelligent and well read. Trust me, it’s a very tough situation.

    But now, they complain everytime that mumsy loves me more etc, i do understand both points and i try as much as possible to calm both parties down.

    Yea it is tough being the least favorite child but it’s no fun being the most favorite child. You keep feeling like your siblings would do a Joseph on you at any time.

    On the flipside, my husband is his father’s least favorite child . LOL! He looks soooooo much like his father, he’s the first son, he’s got similar traits with his dad plus pride. LOL! He says his dad is stingy (man is very wealthy) while dad says hubby is too proud to beg for money. His siblings ask pop for money everytime and he doles out – not everytime but at least he sorts them. I’m actually laughing while typing this. I pray everytime that God should put their love in each other’s heart. Na me dey for crossfire but his dad loves me sha.

  11. Viva

    June 13, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    My people, I’ve seen small. My Mom said out loud that I’m her most useless child. The same woman once said in our native language that {its bcos one cannot throw a child away}. Never mind the fact that I’m relatively more successful than all my siblings. I actually think that she resents my success. She only ‘sends’ me because she can brag about me to her friends. I still love her sha, wetin i go do? a mother is a mother is a mother.

  12. Tosin

    June 14, 2016 at 7:11 am

    on the positive side, it can be preparation for life lol.
    e.g. you learn about jealousy, different capabilities/competencies, different attitudes, … and how to manage such.

    but yeah it’s funny how we’re told families are everything, all they do is love up on one another, (same fiction with romantic love, marriage, and coupling), but the reality is family members can be just as irritating as everybody else lol. romantic lovers can be just as evil.

    nna if you hate somebody own it, admit it looool.

    i sha know my daddy used sibling rivalry to motivate the kids sha, like see your sister got 79 you got 68. then the next term see your sister got this you got that lol. they didn’t get that they were being scammed lol.

    i won’t talk about my own experience sha, except to say it’s a nice thing to study. it teaches you who you are, how you fight, …
    i don’t believe people change THAT much. if you know somebody very well from primary/secondary school you probably know them. my next novel is about young people and sibling relationships feature for sure. insha’allah very soon.

    i’m sooooooooo glad to be grown up. damn i hated being stuck in childhood. 😀 adulthood is all i dreamed it would be and more.

    • Tosin

      June 14, 2016 at 7:22 am

      except to say that [sibling rivalry is] a nice thing to study

      and shout out deb the writer. and yetunde the original poster.

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