Written by: Jenny Smith
Wherever you come in your family, there are pro’s and con’s to that particular position. Of course, everyone has more empathy for the position of the oldest child if that is where they sit, but actually each placement has it’s own strengths and drawbacks.
The Oldest Sibling
As an oldest sibling it is very likely that you were the guinea pig for your parents, the one that they tried everything out on both good and bad! They will have cut their teeth on you in terms of setting boundaries, choosing their approach to parenting and because of this, it is likely you will have received over and above the amount of attention given to siblings born later on. This, along with not having to share the focus of your parents for the first part of your life, will very likely have set you up with both an innate familiarity in being the centre of attention. If channelled well, this can lead to quite a solid sense of self-conviction and a social ease, on the flip side it can create a feeling of being responsible for other people’s feelings, often wishing to step out of the limelight.
Eldest children often have to grow up quite quickly. Younger brothers or sisters knock them out of line, they are commonly encouraged into a surrogate-parenting role themselves. They can learn all sorts of very useful life skills in this role, such as clear communication, care-taking and creative playmaking. At the same time, they can equally learn to easily dismiss their own needs.
A middle child is often described as the rebellious one of a family, with less of the pressure of the eldest and less of the encouragement to stay young, like the baby of the family. Middle children have the advantage of not being practised on, the parenting that they receive tends to be a little more relaxed. Parents have got over their initial nerves with the first and have become a bit softer in their approach. Tiredness and an attitude of going with the flow, replaces the tendency to try and get it right all of the time. Middle children have to compete with their eldest siblings in almost every way, which creates a naturally assertive and ‘can do’ attitude in many of them. Wanting to stand out as being different, they often develop a strong alternative identity, both in their appearance and in their views. It is common for them to be strongly creative in their approach to life.
A youngest child has a different experience altogether from both the elder and middle siblings. Despite the best intentions of most parents, the younger child tends to be babied and encouraged to stay young in their behaviour. Mum and Dad can avoid the painful feelings of all their little ones growing up too fast. Youngsters soon pick up on this, and realise the benefits of playing into the cutesy role. If left unchecked, this can develop into a feeling of it being safer to stay small, rather than growing up and taking responsibility. Coupled with the experience of being surrounded by others who are stronger, clever and more capable. Simply by definition of them being older, it is very common for younger children to always feel slightly disadvantaged. The plus side of being a younger child is, you often get a nice combination of a lot of affection, but not too much discipline. Parents are generally quite tired out by the time they get to number three or four, they are more willing than with the previous kids to let the babies of the family run a bit freer.