Why “You’re the Big One” Might Be Stifling Your Eldest’s Growth

By Samrat Saxena|3 - 4 mins read| June 20, 2024

The arrival of a new baby is a joyous occasion, but it can also be a period of immense adjustment for the eldest child. Thrust into a new role as “big brother” or “big sister,” they have to navigate a landscape of mixed emotions – excitement, confusion, and maybe even a tinge of resentment. As parents, we aim to make this transition smooth. Unfortunately, in order to do so, we often rely on phrases like “You’re the big one” or “They’re younger, so you have to understand.” While these may seem like helpful encouragements, the truth is, they can unintentionally hinder your eldest’s growth.

Think of it this way: parenthood is a constant learning curve. You are evolving with each child, adjusting your approach based on their unique personalities and needs. Yet, sometimes, the eldest child becomes a test subject in this learning process. The pressure to be mature, and to constantly compromise for a younger sibling, can take a toll on their sense of childhood.

The Psychological Impact of “Big One” Labels

These seemingly harmless phrases can create a sense of burden on your eldest. They might constantly feel responsible for their sibling’s well-being, leading to anxiety and resentment. Imagine being told to “act your age” when your age is still a single digit! It invalidates their own needs and desires, pushing them towards premature maturity.

For instance, let me introduce you to Sarah, a bubbly five-year-old, who wants to play with her toys. Her younger brother, David, throws a tantrum when he wants to join. Instead of intervening and teaching David to share, Sarah’s parents say, “You’re the big one, Sarah. Learn to share.” The result? They unintentionally dismiss Sarah’s feelings of wanting to play alone and reinforce the idea that her needs come second simply because she’s older.

Reframing the Narrative: Fostering Growth, Not Just Responsibility

So, how can we break this cycle? Here are some tips:

  • Validate Their Feelings: Acknowledge that adjusting to a new sibling can be challenging. Let your child know their feelings are valid, whether it’s frustration, sadness, or even anger.
  • Focus on Shared Activities: Plan dedicated time with your eldest child, engaging in activities they enjoy, independent of their sibling. This strengthens their sense of individuality and strengthens your bond with them.
  • Set Boundaries: It’s okay to teach compassion and sharing, but boundaries are important too. If your child is playing with a toy they cherish, it’s okay to tell their sibling it’s not up for sharing at that moment.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Instead of focusing on the “big one” role, highlight their positive qualities. Praise them for their kindness, helpfulness, or creativity. This builds their self-esteem and fosters a sense of personal worth outside of being a sibling.
  • Open Communication: Encourage open communication with your eldest child. Create a safe space where they can express their concerns and frustrations without judgment.

Your Eldest Deserves Their Own Childhood Too

By replacing “You’re the big one” with a more supportive approach, you foster a healthy sibling relationship and nurture your eldest’s individual growth. They are not just a miniature parent; they are still a child who needs your love, support, and playtime.

The Road to Repair: Strengthening the Bond

If you unintentionally relied on these phrases, don’t despair. Open communication is key. Talk to your eldest child, apologize if necessary, and explain your desire to do better. Let them know it’s okay to express their needs and feelings.

Remember, parenthood is a journey of learning, not a destination. By acknowledging the impact our words can have and adjusting our parenting style, we can nurture strong, supportive relationships with all our children, from the eldest to the youngest.


TheParentZ provides Parenting Tips & Advice to parents.

About The Author:

Samrat Saxena

Last Updated: Thu Jun 20 2024

This disclaimer informs readers that the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the above blog/article text are the personal views of the author, and not necessarily reflect the views of The ParentZ. Any omission or errors are the author's and we do not assume any liability or responsibility for them.
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