The Pressured First-Born

Three boys: One baby. One middle. One first-born.

When I found out we were having a third child, my focus went to the middle son. Many prayers began for Ethan, in effort to avoid the plague of the Middle Child Syndrome.

Then comes the baby, full of joy and demanding attention in the best kind of way.

Then there’s mom, trying to over compensate for Ethan being the middle child. Lavishing him with an abundance of attention and words of encouragement.

But in my efforts to avoid cooing too much over the baby and ignoring my middle son…I fear I have created a new syndrome: The Pressured First-Born.

Grant is so stable, smart and self-sufficient. He is my big helper and strong leader. I am so proud of him.

But is that how he thinks I view him?

Probably not.

On any given day, this is what Grant hears from me…

“Grant, stop that. Be an example for your little brothers.”
“Grant, let’s calm down.”
“Grant, will you quit that?”
“Grant, you are teaching your brothers wrong behavior.”
“Grant, you know better than that.”
“Grant, you are big enough to do that on your own.”

He is the God-ordained oldest of the brothers, yes. Does this come with special responsibility? Yes. I tell him it is a privilege to be the oldest. God saw fit for him to do this big job. But, lately I’m seeing the pressure I put on him.

Last night, just about every sentence out of my mouth to him was a form of correction.

Very little encouragement.

I am feeling very unbalanced as a mother here.

So…

What is the balance between discipline and encouragement?

What is the balance between instruction and grace?

I don’t want my oldest to grow up as an anxious child – worrying if he is doing everything right.

Am I molding him into a nail biter?

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25

I’m sure my words weigh him down. But…

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24

My words have been more like the honeybee than the honeycomb. Stinging and painful.

Gracious (in Hebrew – no`am ) means pleasant, kind, delightful, beautiful, favour.

Grant needs to know that I delight in him. Even when he has the sillies and is driving me a little crazy – I really do still delight in him.

I want to speak life into my children.

I don’t want to sow seeds of disappointment. I want to sow seeds of encouragement, joy, enthusiasm and favour.

In every circumstance, we will reap what we sow. Parenting included.

My mentor, Debbie, said this other day regarding parenting (get a pen this is good) – “Speak to your child’s potential, not their fault. Restore them. Say, ‘I see this good thing in you. I see that good thing in you.’ Hug them. Tell them how proud you are that God gave them to you. Tell them how they bless your life. Speak God’s Word over them. Tell them how you love and pray for them. Speak to their God-given potential.”

Wow. How often to do I speak to Grant’s fault? Often.

What if Grant heard words like this on a more regular basis:

“Grant, you are such a great leader. Thank you for helping mommy just now. You are such a servant-hearted little guy.”

“Grant, the Lord has given you such a smart mind. I am proud of your hard work at school. This pleases mom and dad. More so, it pleases the Lord.”

“Grant, I see you have the sillies. I am so thankful for all of your joy and energy. Let’s bring it down a notch or go outside with it. There is an appropriate time to be silly. Just not right now.”
(Or something like that) 🙂

The Bible is very clear that when we do this, speak these good words, it makes them glad, brings health and is sweet to their souls.

Discipline with encouragement. Instruction with grace.

This is the balance.


I am so proud of this kid.

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8 thoughts on “The Pressured First-Born

  1. LOVE that boy! And, I pray that today and always I encourage my kids and not tear them down. Thank you so much for that sweet reminder today! It was timely!! 🙂

  2. Great stuff. I struggle with this so much, too, Becky. I am only regurgitating the kind of things I say to myself in my heart. "Buck up. You can do it. Stop dillydallying. Let's get this done…" And to this day, at 35 years old, I struggle with a yoke of performance & perfectionism that is NOT pleasing or glorifying to the Lord. Fortunately, my husband is SO MUCH BETTER at speaking encouragement to our boys than I am. I say often, "I'm so glad they have you for a dad, since they have me for a mom." Thanks so much for this reminder!!

  3. Tears streaming down my face as I read this! Oh how God knew just what I needed to hear after several really hard days with my eldest. I think this is the WHY behind it all. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing!

  4. I only have 2 girls Becky but this holds true to the oldest no matter the number beyond them. This is very good and I seen so much of my "push" in this article. Thanks for a great eye-opener!

  5. Oh wow!!! What a good reminder. I feel I have such high expectations of my first born. And everything that involves her involves those high expectations. What a wonderful warning – I NEED to encourage her, she NEEDS to know the good I see in her, not the small failures that are occurring. Thanks Becky!

  6. Great advice from your mentor! I'll apply it too. As a mom of four – three boys and a new baby girl – my oldest two could definitely use lots of "speaking to their potential". Thanks!

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