Understanding siblings’ love-hate relationships

28th March 2017
Ernesto's Briefs


By Ernest Moloi -

An affection by parents skewed towards one sibling over the others is usually the root cause of a love-hate relationship, which sometimes festers into adult life.

I have often wondered why parents would choose to ‘love’ one child over the others? In most cases, the pampered child – the spoilt brat – unleashes untold emotional terror and misery on the others, safe in the assurance that he/she enjoys the parents’ backing!  The repercussions of this form of abuse slips through the cracks, since our traditional societies appear oblivious to this phenomenon or, alternatively, implicitly condones it. The net effect is that we breed emotionally scarred children that manifest into tomorrow’s abusive mothers and fathers.

Just imagine! As a young boy/girl, the brat is lavished with gifts whilst the other siblings are scolded at every turn. The brat is treated like a ‘glass,’ he/she is addressed as ‘prince’ or ‘princess’ while the others are ‘good for nothing’ rogues, ‘dilo tse tsa go swa!’

While the ‘rogues’ sweat out running errands and doing all the hard and odd chores, the brat watches telly or plays games! He must not go to the farm to avoid exposure to the elements or she must not do the laundry or make her bed, lest she spoils her manicured nails. If he/she flunks school, which they usually do, money, which wasn’t there, miraculously pops up and the brat is sent to the best private school in the country. The other siblings must endure the ‘sub-standard’ public school education.

In adult life, as the ‘rogues’ labour from their various stations of life to tend after their parents’ cares, the brat remains apathetic and aloof to the parent’s welfare. Whatever resources the rogues get for their parents - the parents pass on to the brat! It’s all in the name of love! Various psychoanalytical theories have been touted to interrogate this odd parent-child behaviour but our dispassionate immersion in them notwithstanding, we’ve emerged none the wiser.
One controversial theory is Segmund Freud’s – Oedipal / Electra Complex- which ascribes the intense emotional bond that a boy affects towards his mother and a girl towards her father to the phallus stage of development.

A cursory glance at our societies suggests that almost every household is grappling with this vice. Try much as they will, the moneyed attempts to obscure or even cover up this problem has been their undoing. Our weak psychosocial support systems lack the means – tangible and intangible - to effectively deal with this menace.

I for one think we must reclaim our culture with respect to the way we raised children. A child was raised by the whole community so that with a functional extended family, there was no room for spoilt brats in any family! A cry-baby or brat was disciplined by his/her agemates. We need to go back to that system to minimise the harm that we have created in our society in which teachers fear their pupils and pastors fornicate with their congregants!

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