Part 2: Dos and Don’ts of Raising An Oldest Child Continued. . .
Part 2: The oldest child is:
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Back talks and/or rolls eyes
- Thinks they are overworked
- Knows Everything
- Wishes they were an only child
- Thinks you are harder on them then everyone else
Back Talks- Rolls Eyes
Let’s start with back talking. Is your child really back talking? Or are they trying to tell you they are overburdened, over whelmed, or frustrated? Remember, this is a child. They don’t have all the years of experience in handling situations. Teach them how to better express themselves and say what they really want and how they feel. They might be having a hard time finding the right words. Tell them you want to listen to them, that they seem upset but being disrespectful is not how you work things out. This just creates more anger, but keep your cool mom and dad. How are they supposed to learn how to communicate better if you just get mad at them and don’t listen?! They may be trying to be heard before they get cut off.
Now, about rolling the eyes. I was a great eye roller. It was one of the few ways I could express my frustrations. Though when my mom was really angry she would threaten to knock them right out of their sockets. I never felt like I was heard or could express myself. When I would try, instead of talking about problems or issues it would be about my tone or the words I chose. I never had any help and to this day it is hard for me to express myself when I am upset or am afraid someone will be upset by what I say. Eye rolling is a passive-aggressive way of expressing disagreement and irritation especially when you have a hard time finding the words and feel like they won’t listen anyway.
There can be a lot of frustration in being the oldest child. Is it any wonder why your child starts back talking or rolling their eyes? Ask yourself, “What else is going on?” “Why is my child behaving this way?” Children are limited with skills and words to be able to express themselves. They need to be taught. If a child is back talking you either have a respect issue or they are trying to express themselves in the only way they know how. Talk to your child they have real feelings and real thoughts. Are you behaving toward your child, the way you want to be treated? How would you feel if someone was always telling you where to go, what to do, how to feel and sending you to do things for them? Maybe you were raised that way. . . maybe it is time to try something different.
Don’t- Jump to conclusions
Don’t- Focus more on the words or the actions but why are they doing it and what are they really trying to say and express?
Don’t- Match their attitude.
Don’t- Lash out
Don’t-Tell them how they feel or what they think.
Do- Be Calm.
Do- Remember that you are the adult. You are the parent. Teach them that they will be heard and how to better express themselves
Do- Listen to understand, not to fight back and rebuttal.
Do- Remember what it was like as a kid and how you wish you had been treated
Do- Hear what they are saying and not how they are saying it.
Do- Teach them a better way to say what they are trying to express.
Do- Find out if there is a why to their behavior?
Do- Put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand them. How would you feel if someone was. . . (fill in the blank according to the situation.)
Do- Ask yourself if you are being reasonable.
Thinks they are Overworked
They might be. Evaluate that. Do they need to be graduated to a new job so the younger one/s can learn to help out too? Do jobs need to be rotated? Are rewards and consequences given out fairly? My oldest daughter once made a comment that made me realize we weren’t giving any chores to the youngest and she was old enough to be doing chores, too. The youngest wasn’t too happy about this being pointed out, but it needed to happen.
I related to Cinderella. Growing up, we had jobs to do and Saturday was chore day. We were told that when we finished, we could go play with our friends. However, that rule didn’t apply to me. Why? Because I am the oldest and I can do more. So, when I finished my job I had to help my sister and then my brother and so on. (I have 5 younger siblings.) So, naturally my siblings waited and didn’t do their jobs because they knew I would end up doing it because I wanted to leave. Seriously! I cleaned the whole bathroom and my sister hadn’t even started dusting the family room or picking anything up! Oh, and if I finished sooner than my mother expected, she would have more for me to do. Why? Because I’m the oldest and can help out more. (No, Cinderella! You can’t go to the ball!) Another consequence from all of this, is that I struggle with believing that rules and rewards apply to me too and that I am worthy of them. There always seemed to be a reason why I didn’t qualify. I have a hard time accepting praise or reward’s.
Don’t- Heap more and more on just because they are the oldest. Kids still need to be kids.
Don’t- Be unfair
Don’t- Break your word
Don’t- Set them up for failure.
Do- Give your kids chores and responsibility
Do- Teach them that we help out because we are a family and like a nice place to live
Do- Give rewards fairly
Do- Give consequences fairly
Do- Hold to your word
Do- Appreciate them and tell them what a good job they have done
Do- Praise, praise, praise for jobs well done and good attitudes! As well as extra things they choose to help with that they haven’t been asked to do.
My mom always said she hated 5 year olds! She said they always think they know everything! They aren’t trying to prove to you that they are smarter than you. They don’t necessarily know that you know, what they just discovered. They just learned it and are helpfully passing on their new found knowledge and wisdom.
I absolutely love the ages from 3-6! What a fantastic time to pay attention to a child! They have so much to share. They often have wisdom beyond their years. The world is brand new and they are discovering everything! See the world through their eyes! It really is all new to them!
I never had one super insistent that they were right. We ask questions about why they think that and how they learned that and try and help them see another side. Also, if it isn’t a big deal why fight about who is right, they will figure it out eventually or forget about it. Don’t be drawn into a battle of wills over an “idea or thought”.
In dealing with older kids who think they know everything. I don’t have much advice as we really didn’t have that problem, either. There are some things my kids know and understand better than I do. I admit when I don’t know something, but that doesn’t make me dumb. I just haven’t learned it in depth or the way they have. It really does go back to respect.
Don’t- Take it personally, they think they are giving you new information. They don’t think you are dumb. They just don’t know, you know. Maybe you didn’t tell them and they learned it somewhere else or figured it out for themselves.
Don’t- Get mad. See what they are trying to share or do. Their reason for telling you might not be what you initially think it is.
Don’t- Match wits. You are the adult you really don’t need to get into a round of jeopardy with a child! Your child is not your competitor. No need to prove you are smarter.
Do-try to look at it from their perspective. See the world through their eyes
Do- Listen to them and have conversations with them. Let them tell you about the world! You might learn something new!
Wishes they were an only child
I wished this all the time! My mom often told me that I could have had ________________ if I were an only child or if I were the only girl in the family. Hmmm, is it any wonder that there was sibling rivalry in our home?
Other times there were things my brother got to have and/or do and the reason was because he’s a boy.
Wishes of being an only child stem from:
Being the boss, the enforcer, too much responsibility, not enough kid time, disrespected, unappreciated, feeling like no one listens to you, not understood, and little to no quality one on one time with parents.
My oldest never expressed wishes of being the only child. She was very willing to express what she needs. She still tells me when she needs some “mom time”. This can just be going for a walk, a drive, a little shopping or out for a treat. Sometimes she just needed to accompany me while I ran errands. Whatever it is she has time to talk and cry and be hugged. She has my undivided attention.
Occasionally, she had to be reminded that we are the parents and will take care of things because that is what parents do. Occasionally, she would need to be reminded that parents decide what needs to be punished and what didn’t. At those times we re-evaluated whether we were asking her to be more responsible than she should be. Sometimes we were and other times it was just part of being a responsible oldest child.
A little bit of bossiness comes with the territory and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They need to be able to handle situations and keep everyone safe when they are babysitting. Also, it wasn’t that long ago that the oldest was the age of their sibling. They know what they are supposed to do and when a sibling isn’t doing it, they try to make it right. They forget they haven’t always known all that they now know or how to do all that they do, now that they are older.
Don’t- Think they hate their siblings, just because they wish to be an only child.
Don’t- Overburden them with responsibilities
Don’t- Make them babysit so frequently that they feel like they are the parent.
Do- Give them time to be a kid.
Do- Give them one on one time.
Do- Give them clear guidelines. Make sure they know what you expect, what are the consequences and what can they do if all goes wrong and they are “in charge”.
Do- Tell them you love them.
Do- Hug them, even if they resist.
Do- Let them know you appreciate them and all they do for you.
Do-Get excited about their triumphs and show genuine interest in them and their interests.
Thinks You Are Harder On Them
Many times it is true, because parents have a tendency to mellow as they get older. You don’t worry as much or about the same things as you have more children. All the worry is focused on that first child and new parents take everything so seriously. We find that some of the things we worried about weren’t as big a deal as we once thought. Sometimes we find better ways of doing things (parenting), the needs are different with other children/personalities, we aren’t as stressed, or even that we are tired (and end up doing less than we should). A child that rarely acts out may not be punished as severely as one that frequently acts out.
Don’t- brush off their feelings.
Don’t- be afraid to apologize. It’s okay to tell them we make mistakes or wish we would have done some things differently.
Do- Talk about why they feel that way.
Do- Discuss, if appropriate, why there is a parenting change.
Do- Tell them you love them.
My parents always told me how important my example was to my siblings. Not a bad thing, right. Lots of parents tell their kids this. It is true, to a point. My oldest complained about math and hated it. She was very vocal about her hatred of math. Consequently, all my other girls have struggled with math and claimed they hated it! Even my #3 who is brilliant with math.
My oldest is a wonderful helper. She sees what things need to be done and will just do them, without being asked. Her sisters do the same thing. Being an example can be for good or bad and everyone is an example whether they want to be or not.
Be careful to not burden your child with being an example. Here is my experience from when I was growing up: I was told that my siblings would make better choices if I was better. They heaped on me responsibility for all of my siblings choices. I was never good enough because my siblings made many bad choices. I only remember lying to my mom once. I didn’t drink, smoke or do drugs. I didn’t stay out past curfew and I didn’t sneak out of the house at night. I still wasn’t good enough because my siblings chose to do many of these things and more. Being told frequently that I had to be a better example all my growing up, has affected my self esteem and how I feel about myself. No matter what I do it is never good enough, as is seen by my siblings actions. I will never be good enough if my worth is determined by someone else’s choices.
It has taken many years and lots of therapy to really feel and understand that I am not responsible for my siblings. Their actions do not define me. I am only responsible for me. I am not perfect and that is okay! I am human and I make mistakes! My mistakes and actions are the only ones I am responsible for.
Don’t- Tell them that if they were a better example their siblings would be better, make better choices, do better things, have less fighting
Don’t- Tell them their siblings behavior is a direct result of them
Don’t- Tie the child’s self esteem to the actions of others (siblings)
Don’t- Always talk about example when behavior is bad
Don’t- Make all family problems your child’s fault.
Do- Pull aside child and tell them you were thinking about them and how proud you are of them and the example they set for the younger siblings.
Do- Tell them they are a good example when you see them being a good example and include what the good thing was: sharing, kindness, not getting mad, helping, etc
Do- Remember kids make mistakes, they aren’t perfect and they are still learning.
Do- Focus on the positives.
*The cutest thing ever is when my husband, after work was sitting in the family room with us, our youngest was an infant . . . I was holding her and he turned to me and asked, “Can I hold her for a while?” Of course, I said yes and handed her to him. Our 4 year old turned to me and so sweetly and sincerely said, “Mom, you share your baby good.” This 4 year old recognized an example of sharing and loving. It does this mom’s heart good. She is my responsibility to raise to be a good person. My example to her is more important than any example I have ever been!
Oldest children often get a bad rap for all of these things, but there are many wonderful things about oldest children. For one thing, without them, there would be no younger children.
I have things I wish I would have done better or differently. I’m sure many parents feel this way.
I love this quote:
Oldest children are said to be more mature, self starters, responsible, good leaders and hard workers. Being the oldest has it’s challenges, but it also has its rewards. Oldest children don’t have to carry this bad rap and you can help them. That is our job as parents, to help and guide them to be good, strong people.