Families can be a lot like baseball teams: they each have their own defining characteristics, which make all of the players unique and their performance on the field unlike any other. Playing as a team and learning to mesh even with members that aren’t exactly like you is key to being successful on the home-front as well as being a contender in less metaphorical terms.
It’s a proven fact that older siblings understand authority better than younger siblings and really need to be acknowledged by their parents for this. If you want to raise a respectful child, make sure to acknowledge your oldest child – remember, birthday order matters!
Privilege and Responsibility
It’s true that older siblings are often naturally responsible. They often adhere to the rules because it feels right to them, and this is a quality that most parents are proud of. However, with this comes the possibility of children becoming bored by the rules as they grow up and begin to feel like you’re taking advantage of them because you don’t offer alternatives or make an effort to keep adjusting for changing situations when your child has moved beyond a stage where he or she requires parent-imposed guidance.
As parents, we expect our children to act responsibly. We truly believe that with great responsibility comes great privilege. A popular quote by the Secretary of Defense (October 1981-January 1986) Melvin Laird states that “with great power comes great responsibility”, and this saying rings true in many circumstances throughout life. As you already know as parents, your first born child has access to certain privileges others may not have because they are not as old or mature. You are happy to grant these privileges because you’re especially proud of the kind of person your kid has become when it is deserved.
For instance, if your child has been helping out with getting meals ready and assisting their siblings with some small daily tasks, let them stay up half an hour later than the rest of their siblings. Be vocal about why you feel they deserve it for putting in so much effort to help out!
Don’t Take Advantage of Your Eldest
It’s equally important to make sure that your oldest child has a childhood, too. Just because they are capable of keeping an eye on their younger siblings doesn’t mean you should use them as a free babysitter or expect them to give up plans and activities so that they can be scheduled when it’s convenient for you. Our children are very much individuals who no doubt have their own dreams and goals – let them pursue those rather than weigh them down with the responsibility of caring for their little brothers or sisters. Treat your child no differently from how you would treat someone outside of your family, especially when it comes to respecting the need for time with friends, time doing activities, or studying.
Offer Specific Praise
Instead of just saying, “Good job!” to your oldest child after he puts away his toys or cleans up the playroom, give him specific praise. Offer compliments that point out his strengths, like “I really noticed how you asked your brother if he wanted help” or, “It makes me happy that you were able to encourage your sister to listen to Mom.” These kinds of sincere complements demonstrate that you understand and value his unique abilities which is more important than simply praising an action when it comes from a certain person or after a certain time during the day. Your oldest child will also be able to see how you reward all of your children for different things, pointing out their individual strengths that might have been hard for them to see on their own.
Speak Highly of Their Siblings
When you speak to your older child about his younger siblings, don’t gossip. If they hear you criticize them, they will think poorly of their siblings and be jealous and resentful.
Your oldest child needs you to teach them how to become a great sibling. They may have certain insecurities and might believe that one is always supposed to be the oldest sibling. With some help from these tips, your oldest child will learn how to respect and bond with their younger brothers and sisters which will ultimately make everyone feel more at ease.