The only child in the family is the center of the universe, cherished and nurtured by his parents. He is adored, he is the most desired and beloved person for his parents. But after a while, another child is born, and sometimes several. And then the only one becomes the eldest. In this case, he has a hard time.
How to avoid mistakes in raising children with a large age difference? We asked psychologists to answer this question. And that’s what they told us.
The role of the older child in the family
The great psychologist Sigmund Freud believed that the position of an elder among brothers and sisters has a direct influence on the formation of his personality. After all, we all know how great the influence of childhood events on our psyche is. As a result, common parents can grow up very different, not like each other’s children.
Young people with the birth of their firstborn are just learning how to be parents. Therefore, it is not surprising that raising an older child in their eyes may not be at all what psychologists think it should be. They are just beginning to understand how to behave and what is required of them. Psychologists have noted that paternal love often awakens in men after the birth of the second child. Moreover, with the birth of a first child in the relationship of spouses can begin to have problems.
It is interesting to note that there used to be an opinion among scientists that the eldest child in the family had poor health and reduced intellectual development. However, modern research has not revealed such deviations. On the contrary, statisticians claim that among the 224 Nobel laureates of the 20th century studied, 46.9% were the firstborn in their families. By comparison, 18.8% of laureates were second-born, 17.9% were third-born, etc.
So why do problems and friction arise between older and younger children? Alas, we most often create them ourselves.
When the firstborn is no longer the only child in the family, the mother expects him to understand and help, automatically putting him on the list of adults in the family. And here there are two possible outcomes:
- As the older child matures and forms a personality, he does become more serious, collected, and responsible. He or she feels obligated to take care of the youngest, especially if the parents work a lot or one of them is sick and unable to take care of the family;
- The older son or older daughter does not listen to you and does not want to take responsibility for the younger child, because they want all your love to go to them in the same amount. In this case children start to compete, conflict and fight with each other.
Sometimes parents make the problem even worse by saying, “You’re the oldest, you must to, you should…”. Parents constantly tell the older child that he must yield to the younger one, although in fact he owes nothing to anyone. They unconsciously feed a sense of bitterness and resentment that can stay with him for years to come. An overwhelming sense of responsibility weighs on the fragile shoulders of children, not allowing them to breathe freely. The psychology of the eldest child in the family is such that he will feel indebted to his family for the rest of his life.
Most parents admit that often with the birth of their first child, they do not even notice how they begin to place increased demands on their older child. They want him to study better, clean better, take better care of himself and his brother / sister, and even help them around the house. But this is fundamentally wrong. And it is important for parents to understand this before completely ruining the relationship with the older child.
What should we do?
Even if you have a large family and many children, never forget to pay attention to the older children. Remember: they will be your first helpers in difficult life situations.
There are many cases where older children sacrificed their childhood and went to work because of the difficult financial situation in family. There are many cases where older children took responsibility for raising and the education of younger children, if the family broke up or one of the parents died. Don’t forget this. Love your older sons and daughters as much as your younger ones.
Unfortunately, according to psychologists, parents often demand too much from older children. They should not only take care of their siblings, but also take care of the elderly, plus they should help with household chores, learn well and live up to their parents’ expectations in every way. In the future, such parental behavior can cause psychological problems.
The problems of elder children and reasons for their behavior
When younger children no longer need to be taken care of, mature older children begin to realize that they have missed out on something in this life. The time to form relationships with the opposite sex has already passed. And the usual way of life has been disrupted. This makes them feel lost and alone. That is why it is so important to try to “give childhood” not only to younger children, but also to older children.
Psychological problems of the eldest child in the family arise only through the fault of the parents, who often make gross errors in upbringing. After all, the firstborn is initially the center of the universe for parents, who devote all their time to him. The indulgent style of behavior eventually culminates in the belief that “I am the center of the world”.
Jealousy and rivalry
A little later the second child appears, the firstborn no longer feels important and needed. And a phase of rivalry, incivility, and sometimes hatred begins, especially if the difference between the children is small. Even though parents assure: “We love you equally, but the younger requires more care, because he’s just a baby”. He doesn’t particularly believe the adults’ assurances.
The older child doubts that he is loved in the same way. Moreover, parents themselves may unconsciously give all their love to their youngest, pushing the firstborn to the background. And it is very important for them to realize this, otherwise they risk losing the love of their offspring. If the older baby is still very young, he or she may demand that the younger one “be given to the store, be given to the stork or taken to the maternity hospital”.
So, the child, feeling that he is being paid more attention, begins to strenuously seek the love of his parents. He tries hard to surpass the younger one. At the same time parents themselves often feed the feelings of envy and rivalry. Thus, they set their children as an example to each other, which in no way adds to the kids mutual affection.
The eldest son or daughter in this situation feels rejected and abandoned. Hence all the problems of childhood jealousy. The task of a wise and loving parent is to be aware of the complex of these problems and look for ways to allow the older child to feel still loved and significant in the family. Below we look at the advice of psychologists on this subject.
The older child’s attitude to learning and self-development
On the one hand, the firstborn tries to study better, which can have a positive impact on his future career. After all, parents expect him to be more diligent and responsible. And no one cancels the factor of competition. Therefore, the firstborn approaches with great responsibility for learning, especially if the difference between the children is small. As a result, a child can achieve great results in school or work. But he runs the risk of remaining resentful parents somewhere deep inside.
Grown-up first-borns, who have a big age difference with younger children, are characterized by an increased degree of responsibility. It manifests itself in a desire to control everyone and everything. In addition, older children in the family are often more oriented toward family values, but they have problems with an underestimated sense of their own worth.
Are older children smarter than younger children?
What do the statistics tell us? More than half of America’s presidents were first-born in large families. So were numerous astronauts. What is frightening is that Hitler, too, was the eldest child in the family. But his maniacal desire for world leadership is hardly related only to his position in the family.
What do researchers say about this? Researchers from the University of Amsterdam decided to conduct a study on why older sons and daughters in families tend to be slightly smarter than younger ones. The study involved 659 children.
Analyzing the results, the authors concluded that the children’s intelligence is directly proportional to how they were born in their family. It turned out that parents pay more attention to the first-born children in the early stages of development, which in the future affects the level of their IQ. In addition, older children in the family are often involved in teaching younger children, which also has a favorable effect on their development and the amount of knowledge.
Nevertheless, according to most scientists, the key factor for the success of children does not depend on their birth order, but on the atmosphere in the family. If the family encourages education, discipline, love and care for each other, then both children will grow up equally smartful and successful.
Let’s now turn to the opinion of psychologists. What they say to the question: how to raise the older and younger children in the family?
Rules for raising children of different ages
- Don’t allow yourself to spoil your child. It is very difficult, but remember that you are doing him and yourself a disservice. If the child does not grow up to be selfish, it will be much easier for him to accept the fact of having another baby;
- Do not burden your eldest son or daughter with too much responsibility. Many parents, considering their firstborn already adult and responsible, try to shift some of their responsibilities to him. On the one hand, the baby’s help can be perceived as a privilege, if he will give his mother some symbolic help. After all, every child wants to feel like an adult and independent. However, if the parents’ demands on the child are excessive, they are simply exploiting him. It is important to understand what kind of responsibilities is acceptable for him. ;
- Let your first-born child be a baby once in a while. Do you know what it’s like to be the oldest child in the family? If so, you probably remember resenting your parents for demanding too much. Remember that “older” does not mean “adult”;
- Make sure that the child does not perceive the word “elder” in a negative way. Don’t yell: “You’re a big boy! How could you scatter toys around the house?”. Automatically he will associate adulthood with unpleasant emotions. It’s better to praise him for some work he’s done, noting that he’s behaving in a mature way;
- Try to pay more attention to your eldest son or daughter, hugging and kissing him more often. This will eliminate the likelihood of childish resentment;
- Talk to your children about hierarchy. There is nothing wrong in hierarchy. The main thing is that it should not take an ugly form. Thus, the elder should understand that he has not only rights, but also responsibilities. Age for the child is a certain rank. It is important to explain to him that his age imposes certain functions on him. And when the younger one grows up to his age, he too will be endowed with these rights and responsibilities;
- Don’t judge older children. Older children in a large family are prone to anxiety. They are very afraid of not living up to parental expectations. It is hard for them to relax and begin to enjoy life. They feel that they must constantly look after the younger children and supervise them. It is important for parents to explain to older children that they have a right to rest. Moreover, they also have the right to make mistakes. And they will never be judged for them by their parents. The main need of such a child is the unconditional love of his father and mother.
Parents very often make mistakes in raising their children without even realizing it. Of course, not everyone has a degree in psychology, so this is not surprising. However, it is important for parents to consider that all their children need is unconditional love.
Researchers argue that it is the younger children who usually get all the care and love of their parents and grandparents. However, the youngest also have their own “cockroaches”. First of all, they constantly compare themselves with older children, considering them wiser and smarter. They are often sure that parents value them much more.
Alas, parents often cannot objectively assess their behavior and punish them fairly. This is why younger children often try alcohol early and become sexually active. It is important for parents to track this moment and not miss it. They should also teach him to make his own decisions, because he is growing up in an environment where there is always someone older to help sort things out, take care.
In addition, it is important to share sweets, things and gifts equally between them. Even if there is a big difference between your children, never separate them, thinking that one is an adult and does not need attention. Even adults need family love and care.