It’s always tough on the older sibling when mum brings home a new baby. Suddenly the older child is no longer the center of attention and with around 80% of us having a brother or sister, sibling rivalry is a phenomenon that most of us have experienced at some point in our lives.
But as much as we remember complaining about our annoying brothers and sisters throughout our childhood, most of us tend to forget the many ways in which our siblings influenced our development, emotionally, socially and academically.
Here are five positive lessons children can learn from their siblings.
1) Conflict Resolution
Squabbling, to parents, is an annoyance that can occur on a daily (sometimes thrice daily) basis. Sometimes as parents we wish we could just bash their heads together and force them to get along, but for the children themselves, these tussles provide an excellent opportunity for them to develop as people. Through conflict with a sibling, the child boosts their emotional, mental and social skills.
As tempting (and sometimes necessary) as it is to break up the dispute, parents would do well in letting their children resolve the problem themselves every once in a while. Next time there is a struggle don’t give them an audience, or they might play up to you to get you on their side. Instead, teach them how to see things from the other person’s point of view and help them reach a compromise together.
2) Important Life Skills
Studies in child development have shown that babies who have an older brother or sister learned to walk significantly earlier than their older sibling did. This is thought to due to the fact that babies copy the behaviors they see around them, in order to learn how the world works. This habit stays with us all through childhood, into adolescence and even into adulthood, as it’s in our DNA to want to be part of the pack. Therefore, if your child has picked up the habit of thumb sucking, seeing the older child not sucking their thumb will act as a social reminder that the behavior isn’t seen as ‘cool’ or mature and they will be unconsciously encouraged to stop.
3) How to Teach
Older siblings often learn, through being around their younger brothers and sisters 24/7, how to teach. This means they have to pick up important skills in patience and humility in order to get the youngsters to talk and play properly with them. Our older siblings therefore play a huge part in our education, from speaking, reading, writing, artistic development and sport to much much more. All be it in an informal way, whilst simultaneously becoming less selfish and more sharing individuals themselves.
4) Self –Soothing Methods
Dividing your time as a parent between your children can be difficult, as quite often all of your children will crave your attention at the same time. But don’t fret because you haven’ got two or more sets of arms, take comfort in the fact that the child you are temporarily neglecting, is learning valuable self-soothing skills that will help them become more resilient and deal with their feelings better in later life.
5) Building Their Own Identity
As previously discussed, younger siblings like to copy their older brothers and sisters’ behavior But many younger siblings get to a stage in their development where they want to be seen as individuals. Having another child to compare themselves to aids this building of the self and helps you child focus on their personal strengths and weaknesses. At times your child may feel inadequate compared with their sibling, but being familiar with this feeling early on keep them from damaging their self-esteem too much, as they learn quickly that everyone is good at different things. To keep your children’s self-esteem high, make sure that you have a reward system in place that recognizes individual achievements.
What did you learn from your siblings as a child? Share in the comments below!
Louise Blake is a new mum who well remembers the fierce battles she had with her siblings, but also the lessons she learned. Now settled in Bath she currently writes for Classroom Carrots who help to improve child behavior.