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How Do Large Families Handle Older Children Disciplining the Younger Children?

The 4 Moms of 35+ Kids are discussing bossy older siblings, or how we handle older children disciplining younger children.

In our family, the oldest two children are teens, and getting closer each day to adulthood. We hope to be training them up to be competent adults, and part of that is being able to wrangle little ones.

We often give our teens the authority to direct, correct, and manage the younger children, and we give the younger children explicit directions that they are to obey them.

Of course, we have discussed at length with the teens what it means to be fair and patient and not to abuse the power one is given.

The tricky part here is when Mom or Dad is available to direct, correct, and manage and yet the teen usurps our thrones, so to speak. There have been occasions when we have had to tell the teens, "When Mom is available to discipline, you may not have that authority. Don't try to do my job for me."

Also delicate is knowing at what point the older children have the maturity to determine the best way to manage the younger ones. If you have ever chosen a babysitter for your children, this is much the same. You must judge whether the teen has the decision making skills and the air of authority to carry off the job of keeping control of little ones.

We generally give this authority only to our children who are 12 years old or older. Ironically, just today my eight year old asked, "When am I going to be old enough to make her (the 4yo) mind me?!" I told her that she was not old enough yet to be in charge of her little sister, but one day she would be grown up enough to know what is best for 4 year olds.

Each child is different in their capabilities, temperaments, and maturity levels, so the parent must be careful and not give too much responsibility too soon.

Handing this responsibility to teens too often can also be a source of exasperation if it is a result of lazy parenting. Don't exasperate your older children because you expect them to do what you don't want to get up and do yourself.

What about you? How do you handle older children disciplining younger children?

Be sure to see what the rest of my 4 Moms team has to say on this topic!

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  1. My oldest is only 8, and I have (temporarily, at least) broken him of bossing around the younger ones. I imagine as they get older I’ll have to consult the 4 Moms’ second book on this subject. 😉 (You ladies are doing another one, right? Please?)

  2. what about the youngest bossing the older 2? lol. My 5 year old def thinks she’s bigger than what she is and has no problem with being authoritative, unfortunately.

    My oldest gets it pretty well, she knows if we are gone she’s the one in charge and the younger 2 have to listen(13 and 5) My 13 year old(son) is the one I usually have to lecture on disciplining the youngest when there is at least one parent around that should be doing it

  3. My older boys are 18 and 14 they are allowed to discipline my younger ones who are 3,6,7 we also have a 10 year old. But my older ones are only responsible for the 3,6,7 and they know when mama not here they are in charge. When Mama home she is the boss. My boys do really well and are only left for no more than an hour to supervise them.

  4. Kylie Marjoram says:

    “When Mom is available to discipline, you may not have that authority. Don’t try to do my job for me.”

    I know that this is off topic, but I have trouble letting my mum know that if I am in the room, I am the only one who should be disciplining my own children not her. Any suggestions would be appreciated please.

  5. Connie,
    The other 3 moms have all said they were the oldest child in their families. What about you?

  6. Hi Smockity!
    I’d be really interested in what the 4 Moms have to say about children sleeping over at other houses, or what happens at home when the parents have to spend a night away.


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