Dear Dr. Comer:
My daughter and son-in-law treated their oldest child like a princess and her younger sister like Cinderella.
When anybody pointed out that this was unfair they claimed that the younger girl didn't mind and that her older sister just wouldn't do certain things -- go to the store, wash dishes, iron and so on. The younger one was agreeable and never complained. Both are beautiful girls.
Their father and mother earn a good living and yet the younger child became a call girl. Fortunately she has gotten out of it and is getting married. The older girl is mean and selfish and has been divorced twice at 23 years of age.
I believe that showing favoritism hurt both of my granddaughters. What do you think? Can the older girl be helped? Can the younger one have a good marriage after having been a call girl? G. C. Dear G. C.:
Both of your granddaughters have had a difficult time. But even if you are correct in your observation that favoritism was shown, I cannot state for sure that that was responsible for the problems your granddaughters had. But parents who show favoritism toward a particular child can harm all the children in the family.
You mentioned that the younger child was always agreeable. That may only have appeared to be the case. Sometimes children comply out of fear of losing parental approval.
They may do what they're asked to do just to try and win approval even when they realize it is unfair. They may act like they don't object but they may be furious on the inside. They may rebel but generally do harmful things to themselves rather than to their parents or whomever they are mad at but afraid to offend. A child who feels continually cheated can come to think that he or she is bad and deserves such treatment.
The younger child was being exploited. Such a situation need not lead to prostitution, but it could lead to such an outcome. A young woman who does not feel too good about herself and is agreeable to many things in order to win affection can be exploited by pimps and others.
On the other side, a child who is favored and not expected to meet his or her share of responsibility is more likely to be selfish and angry with those unwilling to treat them special.
But many other factors -- neighborhood conditions, chance contacts, temperament -- may be much more responsible for what happened with your granddaughters.
The fact that your granddaughter has been a call girl does not mean that she cannot have a good marriage and, if she desires, have children and become a good parent.
She may need some professional counseling or advice from a trusted person to avoid repeating some of the conditions that may have been harmful to her. It may seem strange, but people who are mistreated often repeat the mistreatment in the next generation with their own children.
It would not be wise to tell her that you think that the way she was treated may have caused her probelm. Nobody knows that for sure. If she has children, it would be helpful to point out that parents should not play favorites.
I hope she now feels better about herself as a person. You and others who care about her should find ways to help her maintain and further develop this feeling. If she feels good about herself she will not exploit her own children or allow them to be exploited by others.
Children begin to develop good feelings about themselves and do not let others exploit them when they are cared for and treated fairly by their parents.
The granddaughter who has had two marriages may also need some counseling. Hopefully, she will seek it before she rushes into another marriage. Adults who were treated too special as children often expect too much from other people. Momma and Daddy may have enjoyed a princess, but most other people don't . . . unless they, themselves, need to be exploited. Both situations can lead to troublesome marriages.
In the complex and demanding world of today, it helps if everybody learns to carry their own load to the extent that is possible; to give as well as to take. Your granddaughters are still quite young. If you are close to them in an emotional way, you may be able to give them some advice and counseling that can help them avoid some of the problems they have had in the past. Dr. Comer