Questions & Answers

Question & Answer of The Week


Photo by Santa Rosa on Flickr




Is it fair to put extra responsibilities on the shoulders of the eldest child of the family just because he/she is born first? I believe it has been part of our culture to put extra responsibilities and have higher expectations upon the eldest to take care of the siblings, doing house chores, etc. Isn’t it better if siblings receive the same expectations i.e. take care of each other, rather than always being dependent on the firstborn every time?

Being an eldest daughter, I was expected to give in all the time when I was small and be the example to my other siblings – this has resulted in my siblings taking advantage of the situation. They are not as pressured to be an example for others, or take the leadership role and etc because the expectations were not on them. I remember a few years back when my parents were on hajj, I was expected to take care of my siblings although I already had a family on my own and lived on my own, despite the reality that my sisters were actually big enough to take care of themselves, take care of each other, or take up that role of ‘taking care’ of other siblings in the house. What is the best thing for parents to do if they have more than one child?



It is natural for a group of people to need a leader. In a family, the father is often seen as the number one leader, followed by the mother as second-in-command. In households where the father is absent, the mother will be the captain of the ship. The eldest is usually seen as the next-in-line, the figure of authority, who will take over from the elderly parents especially when they (the parents) are no longer around. The eldest, by virtue of his age and maturity, will eventually be seen as the uniting factor for the family. Of course, there are cases where the eldest is not seen as reliable. In this case, the parents and other members of the family will naturally seek another child’s assistance to take charge.

When the younger kids are small, it is quite natural for parents to expect the eldest to keep an eye on the younger siblings and to put extra responsibilities on the shoulders of the eldest child. The eldest is usually expected to care for the little ones by virtue of him or her being the eldest and therefore, being expected to be more matured than the rest. However, this should gradually stop over the years as the younger siblings are more and more able to take care of themselves. It shouldn’t carry into the adult years. Parents must realize that they are not helping the younger siblings by continually expecting the eldest child to shoulder extra responsibilities. Doing so only create resentment in the eldest child while robbing the younger kids the opportunity to learn to be responsible.

Although delegating to the eldest is the norm, the ideal is for all of the kids to be trained in every facet of running a family simply because one day they are going to lead their own families. Parents are not doing the younger children a favour by expecting the eldest kid to do everything. It helps for the parents to spell out who are in charge of what on a rotational basis. Household chores, for example, don’t really need a big leadership role. Members of a family just need to make sure that they get done. However, it will be an issue if parents blame the eldest for chores or tasks that are not done just because he or she is the eldest. The parents should also not expect the eldest child to give in to the younger siblings all the time.



About Jamilah Samian

Jamilah has written 543 articles.

Jamilah Samian is an author and speaker.

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