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At the risk of sending some people into “crazy-parent” mode, I wanted to point something out I think we all know. If you plan to have more than one child, realize that every child that is older will have a huge affect on the younger children, and especially the child just older. In my family, this child is currently Brayden. I am amazed to see how much Kaitlyn mimics what he does and says. She learns a lot about behavior from him. She watches him as much as if not more than she watches her parents. I have seen how important it is for Brayden to be well-behaved–not only for himself but for Kaitlyn.
In saying this, I don’t want parents to go overboard in discipline with the oldest. Typically parents who are too strict produce the same result as those who are too lenient. You want to find that happy medium. It also isn’t the job of the oldest child to raise the younger sibling. If the older child does something he shouldn’t and the younger child follows suit, it is not all the older child’s fault. The younger child has agency and should experience consequences (age appropriately). Also, the parents are responsible for the raising of all children. Just as often as we want to instruct our oldest that they are “the example” and need to be a good one, we should realize that our younger children can learn (and should learn) to think for themselves and act based on their own knowledge of right or wrong, not what other children are doing. We can’t blame older children for poor behavior in the younger children. As parents, we need to accept responsibility for the poor behavior (and good behavior) of all children.
In reality, the older children are examples to the younger children. But the burden of making sure they are good examples should fall on the parents. The parents should train each child to act appropriately. Some older children might be model children. We don’t want the younger ones being model children simply because they are “following” the older. They need that training of the heart. They need to be taught morals and values and know the why behind their behavior.
When I point out that the older children can really impact the younger children, I hope you take that information and use it as motivation to train each child up in the way he should go. Parenting is a full time job that requires our ever-diligence, and not simply our surviving each day. It can feel over-whelming, but step-by-step you can do it! Happy Parenting!
Here are other posts to help in this area: