Parenting Siblings

As some like to say, the only thing sweeter than a baby girl is two baby girls. One of the greatest gifts a parent can give to their child is a sibling. Watching them learn and grow together is so satisfying. Seeing them love each other can make a parent’s heart melt. Seeing the impact later in life makes it all worth it.

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Of course not all siblings are equal. The first one gets all the firsts, the baby book, the “oohs” and “aahs.” They are the first to reach developmental milestones, the first to go to school, graduate from school. All of that stuff. The expectations are low for new parents since you have never done this before and don’t really know how it’s supposed to go. But your hopes are high that your child will dream and achieve big.

Enter a sibling. Or two. Or more. They don’t have baby books. Parents don’t necessarily know when they hit each milestone. Life is so much different with more than one child. There are more curious hands, more fast little feet and more busy mouths. The littles learn from the bigs and feed off of each other and encourage each other and try to outdo each other.

So how do siblings affect who we become? There are many variables including the age gap, our order of birth and what kind of instruction rules in our homes. In regard to the age gap, there are pros and cons to children being spaced closer together and further apart. One of the pros for closely-spaced siblings is that parents are already in “baby mode” and adding another child isn’t that much more work than they are already doing. Another pro is that since the children are close in age they will experience developmental milestones close together and finding child care for kids closer together is easier than children with a big age difference.

On the flip side, there are plenty of cons for closely-spaced siblings such as the mother having enough time for her body to recover and replenish from the first pregnancy. Also, some researchers say that having children close together tends to encourage competitiveness and jealousy.

Birth order is another interesting topic that is not as important on the front end of becoming parents as it is useful in understanding your children down the road. It stands to reason that the first born, who experiences the freedom of being an only child for a time and has her parents’ (and everyone else’s) full attention, would have a feeling of being a princess no matter how many siblings may come after her. One of the biggest reasons birth order is important can be as you add to your family, understanding what impact displacing a child in the birth order can have on that child and your entire family.

The third thing that impacts the parenting of siblings is your parenting style. The three general parenting styles are permissive, authoritative and authoritarian. Permissive parents combine high levels of warmth with low levels of control and few demands. Authoritative parents combine high responsiveness with the exercise of power that’s open to negotiation. Finally, authoritarian parents combine coercion with less responsiveness which tends to lead to higher depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem.

Parenting is definitely not for cowards but nor is it impossible. By arming yourself with information, you will be able to navigate the busy world of parenting children.

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