The Youngest Child Syndrome

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The other day I sent my 4 year old to time out for hitting his older brother while they were playing a board game.  As he was crying in the corner, I realized that I needed to talk to him about what happened.  Instead of just giving him a lecture on why he shouldn’t hit his brother, which I also did, I realized that he needed me to acknowledge something. It’s not easy being the little brother. Not only does he never get to pick the show they watch on tv, but he’s always the last one to the car when we’re leaving somewhere and someone in our family yells out, “Last one to the car’s a rotten egg!” He’s the last one to finish his dinner and the last one to get his car seat buckled when we are going some where.

It’s not always the worst thing in the world to have an older brother. Someone to look up to. Someone who will look out for you on the playground and protect you from the older kids. Someone to teach you how to do things earlier than most kids your age get to do them and someone to share their big kid toys with you.

But we often forget how hard it can be to be the little brother. The one who never wins the game. My 4 year old is a pretty smart kid and he’s learning things really fast. He picks up on way more than we give him credit for, but he’s just not old enough to know that the strategy to playing the board game Sorry is to get all of your pawns close to home as fast as possible. He often gets frustrated and sabotages the game by knocking everyone else’s pieces off the board.

So this time, instead of just telling him why it’s not ok to hit his brother when he gets mad, I also said, “It’s hard to be the little brother sometimes isn’t it? It’s hard to be the one who doesn’t win.” His little blue eyes looked up at me like his voice had finally been heard. We had a moment of connection that made me remember why I loved working with kids. That spark that you feel when you really understand what a child is going through and you know that they notice it too. It’s like a lightbulb goes off somewhere in my brain and now as a mom my heart skips a beat when it happens with my own kids. Of course his brother was eavesdropping at this point and reminded me that he doesn’t always lose, but I could tell that Charlie needed that moment. He needed to be heard. He need to be validated. I needed it to for him to.

They really do love each other.

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