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9 Benefits to Being the Oldest in a Family

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9 Benefits to Being the Oldest in a Family

I am the oldest of 4 on my dad’s side and the oldest of 2 on my mom’s side. I married the oldest of 3. Unless we are an only child (which has its own idiosyncrasies), we are going to find good things and bad things in regards to our birth order. My husband and I have three sons and even though their personalities are very different (as are their looks), I wonder if some of what makes them who they are is based on the order in which they were born. For example, I wonder if my middle son loves that he was in the middle because he wasn’t the “guinea pig” the oldest might have been and he wasn’t the one youngest either.

Growing up, I didn’t like being the oldest. I realize now that the things I dreaded most was hearing the phrase, “You should know better.” Especially as this came back to bite me when I retaliated and I was usually the one who got caught. Even when I tried to just have my own space and keep my two little sisters (who are 11 and 14 years younger than I am) out of my room, they would always still find a way in. The scribbles in my junior high yearbook have all the proof I need. With my brother being just two years younger than me, we did a lot of things outside, including playing tackle football in our front yard. I still have the scar on my knee from when I tried to tackle him and I slid into a metal sprinkler.

Now that I am older (and still the oldest too), I wanted to share a few things that actually benefit the oldest sibling in any family. The burdens once placed on us now have a different twist and have shown me why those moments really weren’t so bad after all. If you are the oldest child, expect to hear a lot of, “You are so lucky”…even if you aren’t sure why.

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1. You set the precedence for every other child.

Every rule, every milestone will happen for the other kids only when it happens to you first. You are essentially where everything begins. You are the model for everything your brothers and sisters will ever get. You are the gauge for every important milestone — If you get a TV in your room at 12 years old, then your younger siblings will want to be 12 too. You are the example — whether it come to trying a musical instrument, going out on a date, or even just getting the chance to pick the paint color for your own room. That bar is set with you. In addition, you will get to try more things. Depending on your experience (and your parents’), chances are your siblings getting to try new things may get lost as the years go by. If you fall in love Boy Scouts, other younger brothers might be nudged in that direction too.

2. You never have hand me downs.

Let’s face it…we all like to have new clothes. There is just something about putting on something that isn’t found in any other family pictures with your brother wearing the same outfit 2 years earlier. However, having two of my sons just 13 months apart, their clothes were practically interchangeable. The only guarantee the younger ones were getting new clothes is if we were doing a family picture and we all needed to wear matching clothes. Even that backfired on me once — we just don’t talk about the striped sweaters anymore. If you are the oldest, you are going to get stuff with the tags still attached and sometimes, you are glad you have moved away from the velcro shoes that light up when you walk.

3. You never have to share a room.

Especially as you get older, the oldest child ends up getting his or her own room because “they need their privacy.” The younger kids don’t even know what that means, but they want it too. Growing up, I loved never having to share a room with my sisters and it meant I had one place in the whole house that was MY place. Growing up, it was where I could do my homework, listen to my music, and basically, whatever I wanted. The hardest part of having your own space was keeping it to yourself. In my case, my little sisters went to great extremes to be with me — even when I didn’t want to be with them. (Side note, today we are all very close and very good friends.)

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4. You are given more responsibility.

Sometimes, this was a burden more than a good thing. I became the automatic babysitter for my younger siblings, but many times because they required more care and attention, I usually was left to fend for myself more. Don’t worry, I never really got into any trouble when given the benefit of the doubt — I was too much of a goody two-shoes to try anything too crazy. But being the oldest meant you didn’t have to prove yourself right away. Your parents didn’t know what you would or would not try because they couldn’t compare you to “what your older brother or sister did.” Being the oldest, I became very independent as I transitioned into an adult.

5. You have more childhood pictures.

As a mom of three, I know I took more pictures of my oldest son that I did of the other two. I am hoping they don’t notice. With one child, your time and attention is devoted to that child — you don’t have to split your time between other  kids and you can even tag team your spouse to fill in when you need a break. With our three boys all under the age of six, we were completely outnumbered and because of that, we probably missed a few really great pictures of the younger two. Not that you have a shrine built in your honor, but finding a childhood picture for the yearbook is much easier for the oldest children. I’m just saying.

6. You are never pushed around.

Growing up, I remember my brother getting picked on in elementary school and once, he found me on the playground and told me what was going on. He never got made fun of for getting his “big sister” to stand up for him, but no one ever picked on me. The oldest becomes the “fighter” for the other kids when someone outside the family steps in. There is a phrase out there that reads something like, “I can pick on my little brother or sister, but you can’t.” Whether there is just two of you kids or 13 — the oldest ones are told to look out and protect the younger ones. No matter what.

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7. You are a role model.

I know, just what you want…someone watching your every move, right? Who didn’t get tired of the “He’s copying me!” game that never seemed to end until you just stopped letting your younger brother or sister “get” to you? Even at a young age, you represent who your younger sibling wants to be. They watch everything you do. They look up to you — even when you want them to look “the other way” or remind them to “not tell mom and dad.” (This is usually done once until they rat you out and then you are just done with telling them secrets.) The truth is — you are their hero and being related to someone “as cool as you” is something every little brother or sister wants. You just never know what they will remember and use later in life, so be careful what you show them.

8. You have your parents all to yourself.

Although you were probably too young to remember these years before your younger siblings came along, you got to have them at their best. Your parents were young and energetic about their new family. It was something they could manage with work, home, and other obligations. You had one schedule to work around when it came to your activities and the chances of both of your parents attending your events was pretty high. Once a younger sibling comes along, the parents have to split time and “tag Team” one another just to make sure they are where they are supposed to be. You are their life and they live theirs around you.

9. You get to be first…in EVERYTHING.

Let’s face it…this is the BEST part of being the oldest. You are the first to drive…the first to walk home from school by yourself…the first to have a date. Sometimes, you will even get to give input on important things like helping to name the new baby or the new pet. As the oldest, you are the first to move away from home, the first to graduate from high school, the first to make something of the family name. When your parents are talking about their kids, chances are you are mentioned first. You are the first to not have to hold mom’s hand in the grocery store and the first to celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Days. It is because of you that those days now have some significance.

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I will never know what it is like to be the middle or the youngest in a family and although there were some moments that I really despised being the oldest. Looking back now, I can appreciate the benefits of being the oldest and why those experiences help make me the person I am today. We can all find things to nitpick about because of where we fall in the birth order in our family. But perhaps, changing our perspective a bit can make everything a blessing, even if it was in disguise most of the time.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

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Michelle A. Homme

Author, Speaker, Quote Writer, Empowerment Coach

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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