Every mom loves to believe that she treats every single one of her child fairly, but birth order does play a role in parenting whether one likes it or not and there can be subtle ways that siblings are treated differently.
The Guardian writes that moms have a tendency to place a lot of responsibility and pressure on their oldest child once their new bundle of joy enters in the world and they are now a big brother or big sister.
This can result in the older siblings rising to the occasion and becoming perfectionists when it comes to chores or schoolwork. Another side effect of being placed into the role of “big brother” or “big sister” is that they could take on a tone of authority with their siblings and start bossing them around since they know that their mom expects them to help out with keeping an eye on the younger children.
In contrast, The Guardian adds that there are some mothers out there that will indulge their youngest child and they are not as strict with them as they were with their oldest. For example, they might allow them to take the car out when they get a driver’s license but they waited until their eldest child was much older before they agreed to let them drive the car—even after they got their license!
For moms that are curious to learn the signs and want to remedy the subtle differences in parenting siblings, they might have made in the past, read on to see how birth order can cause mothers to treat their children differently.
Café Mom points out that it is common for some moms to instruct their oldest child to be on hand to help them support the baby brother or sister all day, every day with no breaks in between.
Whether it’s running to the nursery to fetch an extra diaper because there was a mess or having to attend a dance recital or school show just to support their little brother or sister, many moms expect that their eldest act as a helper--sometimes due to the fact that this is what they had to do with their own siblings and their own parents when they were growing up back in the day.
Cafe Mom notes that some moms expect their firstborn children to take on more responsibilities and chores around the house than the middle or youngest child because there’s a belief in society that the oldest kiddo should be the role model for their siblings.
For example, the oldest sibling is of age, he or she might be assigned to wash the dishes, sweep the leaves off of the lawn and use a Swiffer to dust the living room while their other siblings only have to clean their room or help mom or dad fold the laundry in the laundry basket and put it into the appropriate person’s bedrooms.
Cafe Mom points out that ideally, mom should urge her children to treat each other with kindness and respect. In some cases, that doesn’t always happen and the older child is allowed to boss his or her siblings around and act like the face of authority because they have been given the go-ahead from their mom.
For example, my childhood best friend was the middle sibling and she would always rant about how much she disliked it when her older brother took it upon himself to boss her around. He’d constantly remind her to clean up the dishes whenever I visited or he’d nag her about cleaning her room because he thought that it looked like the Tasmanian Devil threw a party in there when, in actuality, there were just a few Barbie dolls on the floor.
Parents points out that moms tend to be a bit more lax when it comes to raising their youngest children and in turn, this means that they’re more ambivalent when they see that they are slacking off in school.
Some of this behavior is due to the fact that there are a few moms out there that have a tendency to spoil the baby of the family or laugh off their antics because there older children have passed the milestone before and they already went through the usual scholarly milestones with them, so it is like an old hat to them.
According to Parents, moms are often more nonchalant when their youngest hits the stereotypical rebellious teenaged years whereas they were a bit more strict with their older son or daughter when they were teenagers.
The reason why moms (and dads) are more apt to let such rebellious acts simply roll off their shoulders is that this isn’t their first rodeo. They’ve already had children before and they know what to expect during this age; they’re not first-time parents that are fretting from nerves over every little thing and who think that they have to be as strict as Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter series.
There’s an eight-year age difference between myself and my little sister; I noticed when I was growing up, she was definitely more of a “clown” and for years, she’d always ham it up whenever our relatives came over to celebrate the holidays with us. She actually dabbled in theater for a bit because of her childhood antics, but realized that it wasn’t her cup of tea a few years later.
Parents notes that the reason why so many younger siblings wind up being the class clown or hamming it up during the holidays is due to the fact that they didn’t have as many responsibilities and expectations as their older siblings.
According to Parents, moms might pile the list of chores on their eldest but when it comes to teaching their little one how to help out around the house, the list of chores is totally blank.
Scary Mommy points out that one downside of not giving the youngest child their fair share of chores is that you run the risk of raising an entitled child that really does not like to shoulder their share of responsibilities, and that looks down on performing normal household responsibilities such as cleaning the toilet or giving the family dog a bath in the sink.
When I was a little girl before my sister was born, I remember my parents would take the time out of their busy schedule to play with me. Sometimes they would join me for a tea party with all of my dolls or they’d help me re-enact the ‘90s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies with my figurines. Once my sister was born, that stopped and she didn’t have the same experience since I was the one that used to play with her.
Working Mother writes that a scientific study shows that moms often make playing with their oldest child one of their priorities, but that changes after their youngest is born because they often figure that the two children will play together, so they don’t have to play with their youngest child the way they did with their eldest.
I’ll fully admit that one of the things I never liked about being the older sister was that I always got tapped to help my mom run errands. It didn’t matter if it was picking stuff up at the dry cleaner or taking the dog to the vet—I was always expected to go and help out, even if I had homework to do while my little sister got to stay home and dilly-dally.
Parents notes that the reason why some moms expect their oldest to help them out when they’re running errands is due to the fact as they’re raising them, they’re learning as they go along and have a tendency to be much stricter because all of this is uncharted territory for them.
Our Everyday Life points out that sometimes moms can’t help but unconsciously gush about their youngest child’s accomplishments because they are bursting with pride about the baby of the family’s high grades, sports trophy or acting role and want everyone—friends, family members and even neighbors—to know how excited they are about this set of good news.
Moms need to be careful with their gushing over the “baby” of the family though, lest it cause some friction between the youngest child and their other siblings. Those kind of feelings can cause a tangled web, even once everyone is grown up and are considered adults.
According to Our Everyday Life, it is quite common for certain mothers to be extra cautious when it comes to their youngest child doing more “adult” tasks, such as walking home from school by themselves or asking permission to attend a sleepover at their best friend’s house for the very first time.
The reason why some moms can be hesitant and overprotective is due to the fact that they still see their youngest child as a baby that needs to be coddled and protected. In other cases, moms enjoy having a child to care for and are loathe to give up their caretaking responsibilities as their youngest ages.
Ranker writes that another subtle way some moms might treat their children differently is by constantly doting on their youngest child and showering them in affectionate actions such as hugs and cuddles. I’ll be honest, my mother was always more affectionate with my sister than she was with me because she was younger and it always irritated me when I was a child, although I got over it by the time I was in high school.
Romper adds that if moms have a tendency to act this way towards their youngest, it could make older children feel left out (I know I felt like this as a kid) and could lead to more bickering between the siblings.
Parent Map notes that the reason why some siblings are allowed different privileges than their brothers or sisters by their mom is due to the fact that with the more children you have, your parenting style is naturally going to change over the years.
One example is of moms that were stricter in terms of when their eldest child had to go to bed on a school night. It might have been earlier than what they currently allow their youngest child because they’re older, have more wisdom and they know that it doesn’t really matter if their child goes to bed at 9:30 p.m. on a school night versus 8:30 p.m.—just as long as they get decent grades and do well.
With some families, the youngest child may feel frustrated from time to time because it often appears as if their mother had less patience with them and was far more easy-going with their older siblings instead.
Time writes that in some cases, moms are a bit more patient with their eldest because that was their first child and they didn’t have to juggle taking care of multiple children on top of their work schedule. They had more time to dedicate to raising the eldest whereas when their youngest was born, their lives were more hectic because they had to take care of a newborn plus another child, perform the usual errand-running and go to work in some cases.
Pop culture is full of funny examples of siblings that bicker from time to time in both movies, television and books about perceived favoritism from their mother and how that played a role in their relationship growing up.
The Independent warns that moms need to be very careful with their words and do their best to not compare their children in daily conversations where they can hear it, lest it cause sibling rivalry and resentment to bloom between the two. No one likes feeling like they’re second-best, so when you’re proud of your child’s achievements, refrain from bragging to the world and simply pull the child in question over in private to let them know how proud you are of them so you’re not appearing to play favorites.
Psychology Today adds that it can be challenging for the younger sibling to watch as his or her older sibling gets the opportunity to play outside more with their friends with zero parental supervision and they might feel that their older brother or sister is getting preferential treatment from their mother. I know my little sister wished that she could ride her bike at the schoolyard with her buddies by herself when we were growing up and often asked our parents why I was allowed to do so and she could only stay on our block by the house.
It’s important for moms to reassure their youngest that their oldest has these kinds of privileges because they’re older and once the little one hits a certain age, they will be able to do the exact same thing too.
Our Everyday Life notes that some moms unconsciously urge their youngest to idolize the oldest child and mimic what they do, partially due to the fact that it’s quite typical for the oldest to become the mother’s right-hand man or woman from a young age and they are seen as “more mature.”
For mothers that have realized they do this from time to time, it’s important to set boundaries and not rely so much on your oldest to help you out every time you need something done. Try asking your youngest to help you, and remember that your children are individuals and there’s no need to try and mold the little one into the exact replica of their oldest brother or sister.
Psychology Today writes that it is pretty typical for younger children to grumble about how their big brother or sister has a different curfew than they do. My little sister and I reminisce about our childhood and laugh because my parents definitely weren’t as strict with me in terms of staying out late while they definitely hounded her about coming home on time.
For moms that have accidentally fostered a bit of green in their youngest because they see that their older sibling has a later curfew, it’s best to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with them. If they’re mature and responsible, perhaps the two of you can compromise and find a time in the middle or at least help them understand that it’s nothing personal, but all based on age.
When my sister and I were children, it always made me feel irritated whenever I wanted to play by myself and do my own thing, but my mother would always force me to take some time out and make sure I played with my sibling. In retrospect, it was her way of trying to make sure we bonded, but I wasn’t thrilled with her idea as a child.
Parents notes that fostering the responsibilities of playing with the youngest onto the oldest sibling can occur with some mothers—my own included. Instead of trying to push the two together—especially if there’s a huge age difference like there was between my sister and I—it’s best to let the children play in small doses and try to make time to play with the youngest the same way you did with the oldest at that age.
I won’t lie, I never looked forward to having to attend one of my sister’s endless dance recitals or silly school plays because there’s an eight-year age difference between the two of us and at the time, I would have preferred to stay at home and chat with my friends on instant messenger or watch television.
Psychology Today writes that it’s not unusual for moms to wheedle their oldest child into attending their younger sibling’s activities and events and to sometimes feel as if they’re not getting as much attention. It’s important for moms to rectify this so it doesn’t lead to hard feelings; you can remedy your previous actions by having the younger sibling attend the older sibling’s events and activities so it is fair for everyone.