If you are the first child in a family, you might have experienced an interesting transformation: at a certain moment, you turned from an only child into the older one. And as a bonus, you probably got new duties and experienced high expectations, among other unpleasant things. All this, just because you were the older child.
We at Bright Side have reviewed the experiences of older children, collected the opinions of psychologists, and tried to determine the way young parents should go about raising happy children. And at the end of the article, there is a bonus about the big advantage of being the older child.
1. You know what responsibility is from an early age.
Studies show that older children are mostly more responsible than their younger siblings. This is because their parents often have high expectations of them.
Parents know that they can rely on their older children and don’t always notice that they might be tired of having constant responsibility. The phrases “You’re an adult yourself and you should act accordingly” or “You’re older and you have to help, not be a problem” are really familiar to most older children.
- I remember my mother telling me, “Let’s make a brother or sister for you, and you will take care of them and learn to be responsible.” I actually thought that it would be good for her to be more responsible at the time, but I didn’t say it. © LizavetkaBuyanit / Pikabu
- I am the oldest of 6. We all protect the younger ones, but as the oldest, I have become like a second mom to all of them. My parents always made my younger siblings respect me as the older sister and have left me in charge of them, letting them know that I was in charge. I never took advantage of that. As kids, we would fight all the time. Now as an adult and them as teenagers we talk more about our life. If they have any problems they talk to me and I give them my advice. If they need me there when they need to tell my parents something, I am there. I love seeing them grow up and head their own way into life. © rami56743 / Reddit
2. You have to control yourself in any situation because you are the role model for the younger child. Always.
The older children always have to be careful with what they say or do. Because younger children might learn the “wrong” behavior. This is why children stop being children too early and they grow up to be perfectionists.
The fear of losing the respect of their younger sibling makes the older one want to help them with their math homework, household chores, and other things. Then the older children gain the leadership skills and the younger ones don’t.
But always being strong is hard. Every older child has probably had a moment when they wanted to have an older sibling, relax, and just be supported.
- I’m 10 years older than my brother. I spent my entire childhood babysitting, doing the laundry, cleaning, and even learned to cook. Now, I’m 25, I’m single, and I don’t want to have kids. © Barmaley669 / Pikabu
- I’m an only child. All my first cousins and most of my second cousins are younger than me, and my youngest aunt is about 13 years older than me. I’ve fantasized about having an older sibling to teach me how the world works, so I wouldn’t have had to figure everything out on my own. It’s probably why I’ve tended to gravitate toward friends who are 1-5 years older than me ever since I finished high school. © small_latchamatte / Reddit
3. The older child is always to blame.
If children argue or do something wrong together, the older one is usually to blame. It is really unfair when both children do something wrong at a family gathering, and adults blame the oldest child.
Psychologists recommend that parents be very careful and not take sides in conflicts. Otherwise, one of the children will be used to being saved all the time, and the other one will always be blamed.
- I’m the older sister and I have to 2 brothers. When my brothers did something bad, I was blamed because I didn’t see it coming. © nadyozha28 / Pikabu
I was a manipulative little demon. When I was really little (my mom tells me this story) my brother and I would be in the backseat and suddenly I would burst out sobbing because he hit me. Unprovoked. Just “whap!” And cute little innocent me would bawl my eyes out, getting him in big trouble. He’d say that I started it, but why would a cute little toddler do something like that? Clearly, the 5-year-old was to blame. © Steph Long / Quora
4. The younger child is fighting and you can’t respond “because you’re older and smarter.”
“You’re older, be smarter” is something that allows the younger children to get away with the many things they do.
Of course, children will compete and that’s okay. But both children need their parents’ support. They have to know that they are loved. Parents should value their oldest child’s attempts to be patient with the younger kids.
- I’ve made a promise to myself to never say the really annoying phrase, “You’re older, be smarter.” I’m only one year older than my sister, and of course, I’m “the oldest.” © MetalMaiden / Pikabu
- My younger brother bullies me and nobody wants to hear about it because I’m older and stronger. So when he’s close enough, I hit him to get him to feel at least a little bit of what I feel. © Tri7on99 / Reddit
5. You’re sure they love the younger child more.
Sometimes, parents give harsher punishments to some children and lighter ones to others. They have different requirements because of their different ages or sexes. In other words, parents choose their favorites.
A study conducted by Cornell University showed that 70% of mothers were able to name a child they had warmer feelings for. It is interesting that only 15% of children think that their mothers love them equally.
In the future, it could have a big impact on the self-esteem of the “less loved” child. In their teenage years, they are more likely to have bad habits. Besides, the tension between the kids increases if one of them is loved less (or if they feel that way).
If parents praise one child for the successes the other kids don’t have, they should also note the good things they have. Everyone is good at something and not so good at something else, and it’s totally normal.
- One sibling will always be favored. My mom gave birth to 4. My second brother, A, was more favored because he was more responsible and good at being an adult. I have never heard my mother talk badly about him. She always talks badly about me and my first brother, U. © Sandy Morales / Quora
- I’d love to be the younger child, my mother cuts my younger brother so much slack, but has always been really hard on me. There might be other reasons but I’m sure age has something to do with it. © Purplewavyline / Reddit
- I’m one year older than my sibling and we’ve been really good together. You shouldn’t compare kids, instead, you should praise their successes and talents. Buy them the same toys. A lot depends on their innate temperament. © Angulema22 / Pikabu
6. You didn’t have enough privacy.
The oldest children need their own private space as proof of the fact that when a new child is born, they don’t lose anything that they had. When older children have to share their favorite toys or their bed, it takes a huge toll on their privacy.
Everyone should have their own place where only their stuff is. It’s about respecting your own and other people’s boundaries, which makes it easier to communicate with other people. A person that doesn’t have their own private space will not understand when other people are using them.
- I have 2 siblings and I have to let them eat the last piece of whatever every time. Being a big brother sucks sometimes. © Champa_The_Great / Reddit
- Yeah. I’m either fawning and someone is stomping all over my boundaries OR I go atomic bomb on someone for dipping a toe over the line. I was thinking about this the other day and I think we as a group tend to react very strongly to boundary violations. © danidandeliger / Reddit
- In our family, there was a rule for all new presents: everyone gets something. Even if it was the birthday of the youngest kid, the others also get something nice. When the oldest child is only 3 years old, they can’t understand why their brother gets something and they don’t. Even if it’s a box of pencils, the child will not feel like they have been forgotten. © Lottto / Pikabu
Bonus: There are some upsides. You can always trick your little brother.
What adult problems did you or your children have to deal with? How do you remember your childhood?