31 Days :: Pressured First-Born Syndrome

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 new 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.


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 know you have the sillies. I am so thankful for all of your joy and energy. But 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.

Re-post from November 2011. I. Needed. To. Read. This.

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4 thoughts on “31 Days :: Pressured First-Born Syndrome

  1. Good words, Becky! When Elizabeth was about 4 or 5, I remember realizing that I was expecting a little too much out of her simply because she was the oldest (& quite mature). I had to remind myself that she was still a child in need of instruction AND grace! This post reminds me that when I need to discipline, I need to phrase things in a more encouraging way!

  2. I am printing this post and plan on reading it daily! I only have two children, but I know I am very hard on my oldest as well. Always correcting and expecting too much. Thanks for sharing. I really needed to hear this!

  3. Hi Becky, I am the firstborn of 12…I am currently reading "The Firstborn Advantage" by Dr. Kevin Leman. {I am nearly 47 yrs young} and happy to report that I have worked through much of the negatives and am very thrilled to have been given the positives. Its a great read for anyone understanding the effect of birth order. God is good and faithful.As an empty nester {who surrendered my life to Jesus when I was pregnant with my firstborn} I see how God's grace enabled me through the parenting journey. Where I was weak, He was faithful and strong. He honors the desires of our hearts to parent well, when we are unable to do it…I love HIM!!!God bless you! Thank you for your transparency here. It sheds light on the pressure often put on a first born which CAN be used for advantage. Love,Kathy

I means so much to hear from you!

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