If you have more than one child, these statements may sound familiar. It can be so easy to heap responsibilities and chores on your eldest child, as they’re often more capable due to their more advanced mental and physical development, compared to their younger siblings. But, when this happens, your younger child gets away with taking on less, and the older sibling feels overburdened. With this in mind, here’s some advice from other parents on how they approach raising siblings.
A balancing act
Parenting blogger Caley Rosenberg agrees that finding the right balance is difficult. “Our eldest is so independent, confident and capable… and our middle child is quieter and more reserved,” she says. “We have to keep reminding ourselves to be fair, but also age appropriate.”
Niki Malherbe is an author and mother of four, who says her parenting skills are tested daily when it comes to the concept of trying to be fair. “My son is the eldest and was possibly given more leeway when it came to going out, while my eldest daughter tends to get asked to lead by example in terms of her behaviour and responsibilities,” she says. “My middle daughter has more freedom and I feel that she’s learnt a little from her two older role models, and of course my youngest daughter gets away with most things, because she will always be the baby!”
They’re all different
While as parents we want to be fair, we also need to appreciate that our children are unique human beings and that they thrive in different situations. That’s why the concept of “fairness” is quite a fluid one, and shouldn’t be rigid. Parenting blogger Namreen Sonday has three children, and she has raised them all differently: “They’re all so different in personality, so what’s worked for the one hasn’t worked for the other”.
Mother of two Sarah Watson* agrees, saying she felt they made a mistake when dealing with sibling dynamics. “With only a two-year gap between our kids – a chilled-out boy first and highly capable girl second – it was easy to apply the same rules to simple things like bath- and bedtime”. But what this did was foster competition, so Sarah felt it was better to elevate the status of the older child and give them different privileges, but also different responsibilities. Sarah then made some changes, as she thinks having a hierarchy is actually necessary. “Now our nine-year-old son stays up a little later, gets to read for longer and gets more pocket money,” she says.
When it comes to helping out in the home, father Peter Imrie agrees that everyone should pitch in. “We’re reinforcing the idea that everyone in the house has certain duties and that the household can only run if everyone does their jobs,” he says. Their children face the same consequences if these duties aren’t done, such as removing their privileges. However, although things like tidying their rooms are required of both kids, the chores they are each given are age appropriate.
Namreen also thinks chores and boundaries should be applied across the board when it comes to her kids, while parenting and lifestyle blogger Anthea ONeill agrees, saying their family relies on teamwork to function well as a household. “I said to both of my kids that we all pitch in, as we all live at home,” she explains.
Whichever way you approach raising siblings, it seems that fairness has different meanings to different parents. Some customise their approaches depending on the child’s personality or age in order to bring out the best in their children. Parenting is a tough job, but hopefully, these tips from others will help you navigate the road a little easier, knowing that you’re doing the best you can as a parent.