When I was growing up my parents paid close attention to how much they spent on each of their children. Every Christmas, birthday, and holiday, my mom was careful to spend not a penny more on one of us.
That all changed this past year. My dad has begun to help one child a lot more than others. It seems like he favors one child over another and I don’t agree with it.
Is it okay for parents to play financial favorites?
Helping with rent
In my family, tension arose when my sister moved out with her boyfriend. While my dad has (graciously) allowed me and my sister to live at home for free, he made the decision to refuse to help my sister with rent, furniture, or any other moving costs. This was controversial because he currently pays my older step-sister’s rent.
It is not uncommon for parents to help one struggling child but not another. The problem is that “struggling” is subjective. One sibling may feel he is struggling, but in the eyes of his parent, be fine when compared to a sibling.
My dad chose to help my step-sister because she is a single mother who is struggling to keep her head above water. While my sister is going to school for her MBA, she has no income but lives with her boyfriend, who is working. While the situations are drastically different, they are both struggling on tiny budgets. So who deserves help more?
Helping one child can leave others angry
This is what has happened in my family situation, which is why I don’t agree with helping one child over another. Both children have made choices that led them to their current situation and should be held responsible for their actions. While being a single mother is hard, so is paying back huge loans or working while going to grad school. Determining who’s struggling most leads to dangerous territory.
The main problem I have with my family’s situation is that there is no time limit for helping with rent. My father has been paying my step-sister’s rent for the past two years while my sister and I have lived at home. My father also pays for her son’s private school, daycare costs, and he babysits for free. My step-sister has made no effort to take control of her own life. In my opinion, he is enabling her bad behavior.
While my dad expects my sister to work full-time during grad school, he does not hesitate to help my stepsister, even though she spends money frivolously. Now all my siblings – and me – resent my stepsister. I’m having a hard time maintaining good relationships with my stepsister and dad because I feel slighted and I disagree with their decisions.
My dad has talked to us about his decisions and explained that he wants us to learn to have a good work ethic and earn things on our own. He also explained that he is helping my stepsister to make sure her son is well cared for. This helped us understand his thinking and come to terms with his decisions, even if we don’t agree with them. I know my dad has the right to spend and giveaway his money as he wishes, but it’s causing relationship problems. In my opinion, you should help all or none. What do you think?
Help with student loans – or not
Another common situation is that parents are helping one child pay off college loans and not another. My boyfriend went to college for engineering and now has $150,000 in college debt! While he has been paying over $2,000 a month towards his loans, he has received no help from his parents. He has a great job so they feel that he does not need help. But, he recently discovered his parents have been paying his sister’s loans because she is working at a low paying job. Is this fair?
Uneven financial help can weaken sibling bonds
If selective financial help seems like an obvious choice, remember it can backfire. “In families of siblings who recorded the highest levels of disparity in parental affection, the favored sibling reported receiving twice as much financial support as those who felt unfavored — an average of $229 versus $114 per year,” a study at Florida State University found.