School leadership offers countless opportunities to interact and fellowship with many children and their parents on a personal level. You hear the parents’ and their children’s hearts about what bothers them. Some are issues they cannot share and discuss at home.
On several occasions, I’ve had a chance to talk to children, invite their parents and hear from them regarding the same issues the children raise. These interactions have taught me that that we don’t think the same way as our children.
First Born Children's Struggles
Whereas this seems a simplistic conclusion, it’s important to learn how our children think in order to support them. In one meeting a few days ago, a seven-year-old boy asked me “Why are the middle and last children treated better than the first?”
He was disturbed by the apparent care shown to the other children while he received rebukes or no acknowledgements the entire time we were in each other’s company.
According to the mother of this child, she treated her first son differently because; “he is a man, these are his siblings, he should learn to take care of them.”
As a result of such encounters, my husband and I organized a meeting for first born children this year, we had over 90 children ten years and above in the meeting.
Firstborn children expressed their confusion and anger towards their parents’ seeming preferential treatment of their siblings. It was unclear to these girls and boys why they received the worst punishment, the most lectures and the least attention.
According to these children, the parents make it clear that the siblings need more attention because they are ‘younger’. This treatment includes being excused from; house chores, being held responsible for their mistakes as well as taking blame for being lazy or bullies.
Instead, the firstborns are often punished or blamed for their siblings’ mistakes; “where were you when they did this?” Or “you’re older, you should have kept a keen eye on them.”
One student explained quite emotionally how the siblings bully him and when he reports them, the mother calls it ‘winning’ The same mother however, will be up in arms against this child if the siblings report him to her.
According to him, “none of my parents cross checks with me when my siblings accuse me of anything.” This was common among the students in the meeting, the fact that the younger siblings seem shielded from responsibility at home which are borne by the firstborn.
Bearing in mind that most firstborns will most likely be the family leaders in case anything happened to their parents, they should be trained in leadership skills, acknowledged as (assistant parent), and offered a few privileges in order to nurture their natural leadership abilities.
On the contrary, as a consequence of this preferential treatment of their siblings, they will grow up lonely, wondering why they are not loved, unsure of themselves and probably resenting their siblings! This is a call to parents to be mindful on how they treat the first born child and how they handle sibling relationships in the family to avoid life-long rivalry among the young and old.