Although all children follow roughly the same development path to sociable behavior, each youngster is inevitably influenced by the particular experience of his growing years. Much has been said and written about sibling rivalry but the fact is that brothers and sisters can interact in many positive ways.
With one another as social equals, each child has an opportunity to test a wide range of behavior patterns, from conflicts and competitions to compassion, loyalty and protectiveness, in the safe confines of the family.
Whereas the firstborn generally has only his parents as models, the younger child is likely to look to an older sibling as an example for either good or bad behavior.
Thus, the younger who is the victim of an older sister’s or brother’s bullying may reasonably want to inflict similar behavior on a peer, if only for the compensatory reward of feeling powerful himself.
By the same token, the youngster who sees his older sibling performing acts of generosity in the family or striving for excellence in school, and being widely praised for it, is likely to adopt similar behavior pattern.
Happily the older children can also profit from such a relationship, gaining self-esteem in being the object of the younger child’s admiration.
A first child almost always greets the arrival of a new baby with behavior changes. Some children become more demanding and selfish whereas others respond with new found self reliance and an eagerness to help.
Part of the difference probably lies in the older child’s temperament, but specialists believe that the way parents deal with the changes has more significant effect on the outcome. If the older child genuinely feels displaced in terms of parental attention, then the first born will almost certainly resent the baby to one degree or another.
But if the parents use the baby’s infantile behavior as an opportunity to help the older child feels proud about his new, more grown-up status, the first born can continue to feel special in his parent’s eyes and may even delight in helping with the baby’s care.