As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. Raising a healthy, smart child with a heart is already a great challenge for parents, so imagine raising more. There would be constant struggle where one has to divide one's attention between them. You will also have to make sure that you are there for each of them. Part of your job as a parent will also involve trying to diffuse the fights among the children. Sibling rivalry plays a big part in the fights between your children too. But fret not, as this article will guide you through on how to groom the older sibling to be a true role model for the rest of the children in your household.
An older sibling's influence on the younger sibling is just as significant as a parent's influence. While parents can teach their children on how to generally behave around adults, an older sibling can show their younger siblings how to behave around people their age1. Also, siblings are more likely to confide with and support each other2.
Be a role model yourself
Monkey see, monkey do. Parents are their child's first teachers and role models4, so model the behavior you'd like to see in your child. Since you are your children's constant companion at home, they will mimic how you act. Therefore, if you tell your oldest child not to shout at the youngest kid, don't turn around and yell at your spouse.
When it comes to positive interactions with your oldest child, ensure that you're consistent. Children who have more positive interactions with their parents are more likely to have fewer physical health problems, risky behaviors, and depressive symptoms5. Besides, it just sets a good example for the older sibling overall, who will be the same good example for the younger siblings.
Explain why being a good role model is important
Explain to the older sibling that their younger siblings will copy whatever he/she will be doing. It might annoy your oldest most of the time, but make it a learning opportunity and explain what being a good role model means6. This is an excellent opportunity to clarify what attitudes and behaviors you'd like to see in your kid, and how it is crucial for him/her and the younger sibling.
Surround your child with good role models
Your child will inevitably be exposed to different types of people and influence. For instance, it could be the older playmate or the host you often watch on TV. If among your children, the older sibling gets particularly attached to any of the possible influencers mentioned previously, he/she might try to copy that person's behavior and appearance7. Take the opportunity to ask your child what he/she admires in his or her role model. You can give other examples of people that you look up to as well.
Encourage good behavior
Praise the elder sibling if he exhibits good behavior, and do it often in front of the younger sibling. Words like "Thank you for sharing your toys with your sister" or "Good job on helping your brother with homework" are excellent points of encouragement. You should also accompany praises with a hug. Of course, don't forget to be enthusiastic and genuine in your praises8.
Furthermore, you can use rewards to affirm good behavior. Some examples of good behavior are:
- going to bed early without being told to
- cleaning up the toys by themselves
- doing chores
- sharing their food
- showing affection to their younger siblings
Ask what your child would like as a reward, or treat them to something they don't usually have every day. But don't use the reward system too much as it may create reward-oriented children. You want them to focus on the intrinsic value of being good.
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1 "Siblings play formative, influential role as 'agents of socialization'" Illinois News Bureau. Accessed 31 August 2020. https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/205739
2 Sidhu, Shawn Dr. "The Importance of Siblings." The University of New Mexico Health Sciences. Accessed 30 August 2020. http://hscnews.unm.edu/news/the-importance-of-siblings
3 "Sibling rivalry." Family Lives. Accessed 31 August 2020. https://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/primary/behaviour/sibling-rivalry/
4 "Being a Role Model for Your Child." University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Accessed 31 August 2020. https://lancaster.unl.edu/family/parenting/model_537.shtml
5 Lippold MA, Davis KD, Lawson KM, McHale SM. "Day-to-day Consistency in Positive Parent-Child Interactions and Youth Well-Being." National Center for Biotechnology Information. Accessed 30 August 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5519304/
6 "How To Teach Your Older Children to be Good Role Models." Parent Herald. Accessed 30 August 2020. https://www.parentherald.com/articles/101787/20200227/how-to-teach-your-...
7 "Role Models and Children." American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Accessed 31 August 2020. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Gu...
8 "Using praise and rewards to encourage good behaviour: A guide for parents." West Lothian Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Accessed 31 August 2020. https://westlothian.gov.uk/media/12262/Praise-and-Reward/pdf/praiseandre...