“I want the window seeaaat!”
“No, I’m already sitting there.”
“But I came first. Mom said whoever wins gets the window seat.”
“Yes, Mom may have said that, but now I’m sitting because I’m elder to you, and you should listen.”
How many times have you witnessed this conversation? It’s not a family outing if your kids don’t fight, and it’s usually over something so petty it gets to your nerves. Even though fights are frequent amongst siblings, they should never lead to a power struggle. The eldest is bound to use the ‘I’m eldest’ card just like your youngest one gets you with those puppy dog eyes.
Honestly, you’re in a fix. If you don’t listen to your eldest, they’re going to make a sour face all the way, just killing the mood; otherwise, you will waste another half an hour so that your youngest is done with their tantrum.
A quick alternative would be doing what your youngest wants because hey, you’d rather face the sarcastic comments from your eldest than a wild dramatic performance. But what’s more important is reaching the roots. You need to know how to coach your older kids and encourage a strong sibling bond.
Tips for Coaching Kids
It is a common practice that parents adopt the same parenting style that was subjected to them. What we don’t realize is that with the generation gap, parenting must evolve. Just like the kids won’t act as you did back, then you can’t treat them the way you were treated.
Similarly, you must also know how to coach each child differently. How can you get your youngest one to behave with elders? How do you get an older sibling to be nice to a younger sibling? What strategies must you use to ensure that the children get along well? It’s not all child’s play, and these years are what will determine your child’s character as an adult.
1. Respect Is Earned Not a Birth Right
Elder siblings often dote their younger siblings simply because they want to leverage their rights as an elder fully. Receiving respect is one of them. They come to believe that the younger is obligated to respect them no matter what, and this means they can order their siblings for a glass of water whenever they want.
In cases where the siblings have a greater age gap, the elder restricts interaction with them naming it to respect like not including them when going out or not allowing them to enter their room. In fact, this ‘so-called’ respect in the younger siblings roots more from fear than anything else.
As a parent, you should know how to coach your older kids, so they know how to earn respect from the younger siblings. When they act respectfully with the younger, the younger sibling will automatically feel that the connection deserves to be returned.
2. Address Sibling Rivalry
The elder sibling more strongly sides sibling rivalry because they are the ones that feel the supposed divide in attention and love from the parents. Sibling rivalry is likely to manifest in the early years when the children are young.
Elder siblings are often tempted to stage incidents to get their younger siblings in trouble. These may start as harmless grudges but can accumulate over time to become deep-rooted enmity. Being a parent, make sure this does not go unresolved. Never let either of your children feel mistreated or face partiality.
3. Let the Elder Child Feel Responsible Rather Than Burdened
All children may not have been parented the same way, but there’s one thing all eldest siblings can relate to- “we were forced to become parents of children we didn’t give birth to.” Honestly, if the eldest siblings harbor such a mindset, they will never care for their siblings wholeheartedly.
Agreed that younger siblings can often be a pain in the neck, but if the elder sibling feels they’re bound to duty, it can totally change how they take up their role as elders. Let your eldest one learn that whatever they do must not be done because they can but because they want to. This will develop a more personal and harmonious relation amongst the siblings.
4. Always Listen To Both Sides of the Story
I don’t know if it’s more unintentional than instinctual that some parents tend to protect the younger sibling in a fight. The older is usually perceived as dominating or expected to act like ‘the bigger one.’ This is also why they are held accountable for any quarrels amongst the siblings.
“Why did you fight back?” “You should have done as your sister/brother wanted.” “Aren’t you, elder? Can’t you act like it?”
Sometimes, we should also consider referring to both sides of the story. Younger siblings often get their way by crying or playing the innocent one. When you do this, it will give a clear indication the younger cannot always have his ways, and in the same way, the elder will not feel mistreated for taking up the blame.
5. Let Your Children Bond on a Deeper Level
Siblings are known to share the weirdest bond. They may say they hate each other, but deep down, they’d give up their lives for each other. This is a bond that parents should always aim to facilitate and encourage. It is half of your older child’s coaching because then you won’t have to reprimand them at every step; they will act accordingly.
Let the older sibling babysit, the younger rather than hiring a babysitter. Offer your children to tend to an ill sibling whenever possible. Plan summers so that the siblings can spend maximum time with each other.
6. Treat Your Elder as an Elder So That They Can Start Acting Like One
Well, this may sound a bit too vague and obvious, but this is probably one of the pro tips for coaching kids. You cannot necessarily adopt the same kind of behavior with all your children. When the eldest will see that the parents are leaving space for them to step in and take responsibility, they will.
Parents should always include elder siblings in a few decisions; this will make them feel more mature and undertaking than the rest. Also, parents should keep in mind that just because the child has become the eldest does not mean they’ll not need pampering. By this, I suggest you should do things for your elder children that you wouldn’t normally do for the young. You should also have a frequent heart to heart conversations.
Conclusively, many parents coach their older kids based on their own experience, which can often be quite unhealthy. Instead, parents should consider themselves in each of their child’s shoes before acting. If possible, parents should have a basic knowledge of child psychology.