I see quite a few older siblings in my therapy room, far more actually than the younger ones. They are usually brought to see me because they either lack confidence or are displaying negative attention seeking behaviour. Both are symptoms of the same problem. They feel that they are not loved for who they are but for what they do. If they behave well, do their homework, go to bed when they’re told, play nicely with their younger siblings and so on then no-one takes any notice of them. It is only when they play up to get noticed that they get any attention.
What they see though is their younger sibling being given attention just for being cute, looking pretty, saying something funny or being affectionate. They don’t have to do anything or achieve good marks to get praise and cuddles.
As you can imagine this creates sibling rivalry either at an aggressive level or passive aggressive through withdrawal and non compliance.
They are by now too self conscious and embarrassed to admit that they too need cuddles and want to know they are loved. They find it hard to admit that they feel neglected and pushed aside by their younger sibling who let’s face it, they love too.
It’s very natural for parents to give more attention to younger children who need more practical help with getting dressed, eating, doing homework and so on but it is noticed and the feelings of being sidelined can build up without you realising.
I even find parents coming to me as adults who realise they have never stopped their attention seeking behaviour that started during childhood. They will typically create dramas and make demands in order to be noticed. They also find it hard being a parent because in many ways they still behave like a child because that was how they got attention when they were a child themselves.
At the start of this Autumn term when perhaps the focus is on your younger children going back to school, spare a thought for your older ones and love them for just being them rather than having to achieve something in order to please you. It’s hard too for older children returning to school and they need to know how much they are loved unconditionally. Unconditional love means loving them without them having to earn your love and attention. Love them for who they are not what they achieve.
If you want to learn more about being a happier parent with NLP read my book Teach Yourself: Be a happier parent with NLP published by Hodder Education.