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Let's talk about the "golden child" syndrome

(80 Posts)
Thesearepearls Fri 10-Aug-18 23:51:57

This thread has been prompted from the thread about narc mothers. Which was humbling to read.

I have two children. I truly believe that I love both children equally. In fact DD was our miracle child (after 3 miscarriages and 2 ectopic pregancies). I never believed that i would have a child nevermind two. I love being a parent and I hope that I have been the best parent that is possible given my own failings as a human being.

The thing is that DD had a few problems growing up (she is 20 now). She didnt work at school, despite being very clever, and there was a problem with money. She stole a vast amount of money. I don't want to say how much except it was thousands. She is now at a good university and has a lot of friends and a really nice boyfriend. She's back on the right track.

DS was diligent and hardworking and did his best at school and has done rather well. He's waiting for his exam results but he will go to a very good university.

I firmly believe that I have treated my children equally yet I hear the odd comment from DD that DS was the "golden child". I don't think he was, I think they are both golden children yet DD clearly feels there is some aspect of inequality. That in some way DS was treated better.

I have reviewed my actions carefully. Have i treated them unequally? Why would I have done that? More importantly how did this inequality manifest itself? DD has the larger bedroom which has an en-suite bathroom (this is a function of our house, only two of the bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms and DD being older sort of got the room with the bathroom). They have both been to the same schools. They have both been encouraged and supported I think or hope.

The difference between the two children who are equally bright and I firmly believe equally loved is that DS worked and DD didn't. So her results at school were fine kind of but DS's results were outstanding. We tried to help both children equally.

FWIW I think I am close to both children but possibly closer to DD who talks to me if she is upset about anything where DS will bottle things up.

I'm just feeling unsettled about this golden child thing. I don't want either of my children thinking they're not golden children. But DD certainly thinks about DS as though he's a golden child and she is not. Although she does love her brother and does celebrate his success.

I don't know what do you do when one child feels she's not the golden child?

IStillMissBlockbuster Fri 10-Aug-18 23:54:32

Did you ask her where she got that idea from?

shakeyourcaboose Fri 10-Aug-18 23:57:37

What were the repercussions for her theft?

garethsouthgatesmrs Fri 10-Aug-18 23:58:44

yes you need more input from dd to know where this comes from. Love is not measured by en suites though.

Perhaps if DS worked harder you praised him more and DD got all the criticism?

you need to ask her.

Thesearepearls Sat 11-Aug-18 00:09:08

I don't know where the idea has come from

Certainly she talks to me about my "Mum goggles" Whenever I say that she has done a good thing or made a good choice (which she does frequently) she says that I have "Mum goggles" and am blind because I am biased because i love her

Sometimes she will say that DS made good choices and she wasn't in the right place to hear me when I was trying to get her to work for her A levels.

But very occasionally she will make a remark about DS being the golden child as though he is kind of preferred (which he isnt, I don't think)

charlestonchaplin Sat 11-Aug-18 00:16:24

This tells you a lot about many of the reports here about other siblings being the 'golden' child. People take these reports as incontrovertible fact, rather than a very biased opinion. I always wonder what other more objective family members would report.

The truth is that the innate personality of some people means they see injustice more frequently, they feel that perceived injustice more keenly, they are more envious/jealous of others, the see things only from their own perspective, are unable to see the balancing act their parents try to do, and they fail to see their parents as human beings with human frailties who will sometimes get things wrong despite their best efforts.

I have presented an extreme position but I think there is an element of some of these at play in many reports of a sibling being the golden child. The point is, just because a person feels hard done by, it doesn't mean they have been hard done by.

BackforGood Sat 11-Aug-18 00:17:46

I think to some extent many (most?) siblings have a bit of 'the grass is greener' about being a different child in the family.

We all reckon dc4 was spoilt, as she was the baby. She reckons she got the worst deal as the baby. My sisters reckon my brother had things best (maybe as only boy, maybe as was the oldest), and he reckons he got cracked down on hardest / got the blame most. My one sister and I reckon we were most deprived, as the 'middle ones' and so it goes on.
I hear the same arguments from dh's siblings when they talk about their childhood, and the same arguments from my own dc, and various friends where we know the whole family.
Deep down we know my parents were fair to all of us, and my dc know we are fair to all of them and dh + siblings know the in laws were fair to each of them, it is just a fairly normal sibling thing, I think.

Apileofballyhoo Sat 11-Aug-18 00:21:22

Perhaps she just means he's the Golden child because he never put a foot wrong, rather than being the preferred child of a narcissist mother. IYSWIM.

Witchend Sat 11-Aug-18 00:25:02

I suspect my siblings might say I was the golden child.
Thing actually was I was considered easy going and the one who would be reasoned with.
So I was always expected to be the one who stepped down, or compromised or gave way, or got the smaller piece. Because I rarely made a fuss.

If they were ever asked to do any of the above they refused, shouted and got very stroppy. Usually what happened then was my parents then came back and asked or told me to compromise. It was the easy way out. I didn't usually make a fuss.
Occasionally my parents held firm and that, I suspect is what my siblings remember.
So what they saw as I was given something and they really minded. But if they had it, I didn't mind. Does that make sense?

But the thing was I did mind and it often made me feel very much less important as I was the one who missed out most of the time.

Stillme1 Sat 11-Aug-18 00:26:18

A few years ago my sibling and I spoke about who was the "golden child". It turned out that we each thought the other was the favoured child. From this conversation I have assumed that we must have been treated equally but both wanted more thinking the other was getting more.
I am not sure but I do think we must have been treated equally as children.

Spilledmycoffee Sat 11-Aug-18 00:26:53

I know someone who would refer to their sibling as the golden child because they are proud of them and pleased they took the opportunities that they themselves didn't see the same way at the time. Could she mean it more like that?

User467 Sat 11-Aug-18 00:28:21

I think you are dealing with two different definitions that just happen to have the same name. A child's perception that their sibling was favoured (which to be honest, a lot of kids will claim at one time or another over insignificant things) is vastly different and far less damaging than the golden child of a narcissistic parent. Perhaps she says it more as a comment about your DS' behaviour compared to hers, rather than how you treated them. He acted like the golden child, rather than you treated him like the golden child.

kalinkafoxtrot45 Sat 11-Aug-18 00:30:49

stillme1, my sibling and I thought the same!

FishingIsNotASport Sat 11-Aug-18 00:34:57

This is very common with siblings (as demonstrated by previous comments) so I wouldn't pay much heed if I were you. I'm one of 5 children and we all insisted that different siblings were the favourite, and now my 2 DC do the same.

AndNoneForGretchenWieners Sat 11-Aug-18 00:36:29

My sister says I'm the golden child, because I was sent to private school (only went because I passed the entrance exam, she didn't want to even try), am married with a child and have a good career. However I was kicked out at 18 for telling my parents to fuck off, whereas she is still there at home at 30, despite having held a knife to my mum's throat on more than one occasion (mental health problems), with no job and a string of girlfriends, most of whom have either robbed her and my parents blind, or cheated on her, and still they have never asked her to leave. As a pp said, it's all about perception.

RafikiIsTheBest Sat 11-Aug-18 00:36:39

I'd also take it to mean that your DS was better behaved and less challenging, so 'better' child rather than the prefered child.

I think if all the children are arguing about who was the 'golden' or prefered child and don't agree then the parents have done a good job of treating them equally. In my family, we are all aware of who is Mum's favourite, who is Dad's favourite and the child who is nobodies favourite. That doesn't mean that being a favoured or 'golden' child is easy!

GoodHeavensNoImAChicken Sat 11-Aug-18 00:44:34

I wonder whether she has very low self esteem and genuinely thinks her brother is a better child?

That sounds awful but do you see what I mean from her point of view? She must feel terrible for what she put you through and could be beating herself up for that difficult time.

It’s reminded me slightly of home - there are lots of photos around my parents’ house of my brother’s various accolades and far fewer of mine but it’s simply because he’s got more photos/certificates etc- it’s a family joke that they’re all his, I find it funny but also know that really we’re both good at different things (though he excelled at school!), have been loved equally and it doesnt bother me at all and I’m so proud of him- why shouldn’t he have a photo up just because there isn’t one of me too? But I see how it could if I was struggling with my own confidence/was a bit jealous

GoneWishing Sat 11-Aug-18 00:48:01

I'd suggest talking to your DD about it honestly and frankly, as you say you have a good relationship with her.

My brother and I had a similar situation going on, in a way. Except it was my (equally, if not more, smart) DB who didn't work at school, and actually got expelled in the end, and was involved in some small time crime in his late teens. He definitely got labelled as the "troubled one" in the family, I think. Smoked, had dodgy friends etc. I was quite a bit younger, so wasn't in a rebellious teen years yet when his "issues" were going on, and so I feel was seen as more the "golden child". And once I was older, I felt quite burdened by the expectations already, so hid any less than desirable stuff quite well (and it was easy, as in my parents' eyes I was already the "good one").

Honestly, just try your best and talk to your children, is the only advice I can imagine. Don't take obvious sides. My DP, while I love them both, seem have subtly divided the two us between them. DM will never see a fault in me. DF will always think DB is somehow better (as he pulled himself together and now earns good money, I guess?). They have made their power of attourney wills and financial wills to reflect this. It's quite odd. DB and I have a good relationship, luckily.

Thesearepearls Sat 11-Aug-18 01:01:06

Our wills treat both children equally - we love both children equally (I think anyway)

In a moment of truth DD did once mention about all the "shit I put you through". We have never mentioned it once it got uncovered and just tried to be loving and supportive.

It isn;t hard to love your children. The harder thing is to make sure they feel loved.

Shamoo Sat 11-Aug-18 01:04:54

I can only comment on my family, but me and my sister both refer to my brother as the golden child. We know our mum loves us, very, very much, and she has been fantastic to all of us, so we don't mean it with any real edge or as if it has been a problem to me and my sister. But he used to get away with loads more, and was always spoken about glowingly despite being naughty, so he was the golden child! He definitely did not see it like that, and nor did my mum. Just perceptions. But no harm.

AjasLipstick Sat 11-Aug-18 01:06:16

I am one of four. We're all adults now but my sister who is a couple of years older than me (I'm youngest) is and was always the golden child. Mum would deny it.

We were all treated the same but it reveals itself in tiny, telling ways. The way Mum talks about her is different to the way she talks about the rest of us.

She's obviously prouder of my sister despite the fact that on paper, I have achieved far more.

garethsouthgatesmrs Sat 11-Aug-18 01:11:02

A few years ago my sibling and I spoke about who was the "golden child". It turned out that we each thought the other was the favoured child. I suspect me and my brother could hava similar conversation.

Unless you are not presenting things truthfully I would suggest the problem lies with your DD and not you or your partner's parenting. Perhaps her brother was better behaved and she saw you praising him and tried to do things to achieve the same attention ( such as stealing) perhaps it;s easier for her to convince herself it's your fault than own her mistakes.

Just tell her that you love her and she is wrong about the favoritism and keep repeating. If it's true amd your behavoour reflects it I don't see what else you can do.

Prinkley Sat 11-Aug-18 01:12:21

She sounds like she has low self esteem.

She feels like the black sheep because of the mistakes she made. It doesn't sound like you've made her feel like this, but perhaps it comes from within - she is blaming herself.

She also sounds like she finds it hard to accept praise, because when you comment on something she's done well (eg. For making a good decision) she deflects it by saying you have mum goggles.

Mediumred Sat 11-Aug-18 01:13:58

Aww, I think you sound like you have been scrupulously fair and the fact you are even worried about this shows you were unlikely to have favoured one child. Even with your daughter’s issues, which must have been challenging for you as a parent at the time, you now praise and celebrate how she’s come through them. As others have said, just keep talking about it but I think it is the way of siblings to always feel a little hard done by.

My own mum always had a mantra ‘I love both of my children the same’. And I really felt that. My brother married/had kids younger than me (although i’m the eldest) and I could have complained that she saw them more, had more pictures of them around the house, but your daughter is very young and I think with more maturity she will see that you love and care for them both equally.

Now mum is gone and my brother and I must trudge on without her but we are still bathed in her loving memory and there is no rancour in our relationship. We feel sorrow for each other, seeing my little (but now v big) brother cry on clearing our mum’s home broke my heart, but also draw strength from each other.

I only have a daughter so she is obviously the ‘golden child’, but will have to face her loss alone when the time comes for me and her dad.

Sorry to be so maudlin, just to say sibling relations can be complex but also amazingly rewarding and you sound a great mum.

Kokeshi123 Sat 11-Aug-18 01:16:18

The truth is that the innate personality of some people means they see injustice more frequently, they feel that perceived injustice more keenly, they are more envious/jealous of others, the see things only from their own perspective, are unable to see the balancing act their parents try to do, and they fail to see their parents as human beings with human frailties who will sometimes get things wrong despite their best efforts.

This. I am also a bit cautious when I hear comments about "my sister/brother was always the favorite growing up" blah blah, with the implication that the parents were the ones in the wrong. Kind of like, "I would need to know more about the background story on this one before judging."

Don't get me wrong, I don't doubt that there are some parents who latch onto one kid and are unjust to another for silly or random reasons.

But I also think that a lot of the time, the difference in parent-child relationship may come down to the fact that the kids were different people to start with. Some kids are just much harder to get along with than others (like some adults). And some people are prone to imagining insults and injustices, and turning them into huge "things" in their minds.

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