One of the things we quickly realized is how easily a precedent can be set as a result of decisions made or rules put in place for the oldest child. This is fairly obvious for anyone that grew up in a family with multiple children, but we found that we had to really step back and think about things not only from the perspective of the decision at hand, but also the possible precedent-setting value it might have for the younger siblings. For girls, it includes things like wearing makeup, dating and allowing boys in their room.
Initial decisions for the oldest child could be made based on their particular level of maturity and your trust in them, but that might not be the same for the younger siblings when they reach the same age – possibly too strict or not strict enough. And making later changes to rules and standards causes one side or the other to feel like they got stiffed. Of course, many parents err on the conservative side with the oldest and then loosen up. That often doesn’t sit well with the oldest. In fact, there were a couple of times when we realized we were too conservative with our oldest and wanted to loosen up a bit for our younger children. We talked to our oldest about it to get her opinion. Just involving her in the decision and admitting that we didn’t have a textbook to guide us through every decision was huge. You will also probably be surprised to discover some things you were too liberal on with the oldest and then struggle to find the way to tighten things up a bit for the others.
The main lesson my wife and I learned is to at least give a little extra thought to the precedent-setting implications when making decisions about what is and isn’t allowed.
See my other blog posts on parenting here.