Rabbi Ross. I have six children ranging in ages from 17 through 5. Frequently, I need to ask the older ones to watch the younger ones since my husband and I both work. My older kids constantly complain that they should not have to watch their siblings. Since they’re living in my house, and they are my kids, I don’t agree. We decided to ask and follow your opinion since we read your articles every week. Thank you in advance. Esther - Flatbush
Thank you for your vote of confidence. However, I’m not that comfortable being a decision maker; these articles are designed to assist, not replace, your parenting. Nonetheless, I have seen this question many times over the past few months, so we’ll try to figure out a solution.
There are many parents who believe that the older children should certainly be expected to help out with watching the younger siblings. Many parents feel that it is only fair for them to help out as a way of returning the favor to their parents for having raised them. Additionally, helping out with watching younger siblings is a simple matter of Kibbud Av V’aim. I have a few concerns with those parents who rely on those rationales:
Additionally, it is okay and certainly a good idea to let your children know that a family is like a team, where everyone pitches in. Being part of a family means that we are all responsible to help out and be there for one another. However, the parents should be acting as the “Captains”, so to speak, in which they are the ones to most often take charge and show responsibility for all.
Remember, the phrase “Mom knows best”, is kind of true. If you get the feeling that your kids don’t want to help with the siblings, never force it. It’s cheaper to hire a babysitter than to spend thousands of dollars on family counseling.
Something else to think about, is that your second-to-oldest might be better than your oldest at watching the younger ones. This is somewhat typical, and it’s what I like to call the “Firstborn Mentality.” It would not be a good idea to even verbalize this. You can simply compliment the one helping out, and mention “Everyone has different talents, you are really great with your siblings!”
Additionally, it’s important to give special time to the older kids. Remind them that the reason that they are being treated as adults is because they have proven that they are mature, amazing, older siblings. It is also so important that you express to your children how much you appreciate their help. Don’t assume that they know how much they are appreciated and valued.
B”eH ,may we continue to Shep Nachas from all of our children.
Have a good Shabbos!
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.