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if you have teens in a large family...

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I am wondering if there are other large families (which I would define as 6+ kids but define it however you like!) with teens who do a lot of work helping with the younger ones. I have often seen the Duggars "buddy system" criticized as the parents not really raising the kids... while I don't have a buddy system my oldest 2 (almost 14 and 12 resepctively) do a lot of parenting work to help me out.

DS puts 3 of his sisters to bed and acts as a general discipline watchdog (the first I ask him to do, the second is just a role he has taken on). DD spends more one on one time with DD2 than I do-- she babysits/ watches/ plays with her for large portions of the day. They also help out with a lot of housekeeping, giving the younger girls snacks, meals, vacuuming, dishes, laundry, picking up, cleaning the bathrooms.

Their lives are so different from other teens and tweens I see. I feel guilty because of this... but then again it seems like a good life lesson?

We homeschool so the kids are home with each other most days.

I pay them an allowance each week and am very, very grateful for their help and they know this. DH is gone for days at a time, including nights, due to work, and their help has become a necessity for me.
post #2 of 10
We have 4 kids, the oldest is 11, and I totally rely on his help with the younger ones!! He's great with them, they adore him, and I constantly tell him he will be a great dad someday :-D

The 8yo is not quite old enough to be in charge of much of anything, but he likes to help as he can. The older two are already anxious to eventually babysit, and they already help cook, clean, etc.

And FWIW, we don't home school, we are a urban family living a quasi-homesteader life in the city. Pets, garden, chickens, etc. I am very active at their school. I couldn't do all that without their help! But yes, it is totally different from what their peers experience. I feel so sad for the families that tell me "DD won't let me come in to her school, she is so embarassed to be seen with me," or, "Well, they fight all the time, that's just what sibs do, oh well..."

I grew up with one sister, we were not close, and my parents acted like siblings should fight all the time, kids are a chore/bore, etc. Yes my kids fight too, but I am very vocal about my intolerance -- from the time they were small, when they would fight, we would implement NVC techniques and say, "Repeat after me: Family is more important than anything." I believe that my job is to help them practice loving-kindness so that it will come naturally to them as adults/parents.

Hope this wasn't too rambling...
post #3 of 10
We only have 5 children but will have 7 here soon.

Our oldest is 13 and I can totally relate to what you are saying. Truth is that when you have a big family your life IS going to look different, and I don't think that is only for the oldest children that fact is going to stretch across the board. Throw homeschooling into the mix, we homeschool as well, and you have a family model that very few people will ever experience first hand.

My advice to you if you are feeling badly about the amount your oldest kiddos are helping with the littles is to talk to your teens and see what they have to say. I am fortunate that our 13 year old actually really enjoys helping out with the littles. She has a natural maternal instinct that would eclipse even most adults I know. We have talked about it and have made it clear that if she ever feels like we are asking too much of her that she should tell us immediately so that we can make adjustments.

I don't really see our 9 year old helping out very much as she gets older. This could change of course but she is just sooo different than her sister was at that age. Once a baby gets crawling age she just completely loses interest.

Ultimately there is no one size fits all answer, at least I don't think so. Just keep those lines of communication open and be willing to adjust as everyone's needs change and I think you all will be fine.
post #4 of 10
I have "only" 4 children but am an only child myself, so I constantly struggle with what I can ask, should be asking (or not) etc.
How do you go about the chores? Do you have a list, do you rotate, ...?
post #5 of 10
I only have on child and we will probably only have two (although I'd like three... sigh... ) but I just wanted to say that I do NOT think older siblings helping the younger ones is bad. It makes perfect sense. A family unit would help each other and work together for the best outcome and to meet goals. Now, there would be an issue if say, there was no option but to act as the parent instead of the parent (including 'not being allowed' to move out at 18) but older siblings helping with younger, especially when its something they are happy to do (even if they get frustrated just like the parents do too from time to time haha) is just what a family is to me. When you love people, why wouldn't you want to care for them and help out any way you can?
post #6 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by treeoflife3 View Post
I only have on child and we will probably only have two (although I'd like three... sigh... ) but I just wanted to say that I do NOT think older siblings helping the younger ones is bad. It makes perfect sense. A family unit would help each other and work together for the best outcome and to meet goals. Now, there would be an issue if say, there was no option but to act as the parent instead of the parent (including 'not being allowed' to move out at 18) but older siblings helping with younger, especially when its something they are happy to do (even if they get frustrated just like the parents do too from time to time haha) is just what a family is to me. When you love people, why wouldn't you want to care for them and help out any way you can?
You know that's a lovely, idealistic attitude. The fact is, some teens are going to resent having to bear lots of responsibilities and taking on a caretaker role, even if they love their younger siblings.

My sister (oldest of 5) has never had children. She swore that she changed enough diapers before she was 13 to last her a lifetime. I know she loves us all, she's generous and enjoys the company of her extended family, nieces and nephews. Maybe she would have preferred childlessness even if she was an only child or from a smaller family - it's impossible to know. What I do know, is that assuming a caretaking role did have a lasting effect on her.
post #7 of 10
while i'm so not a large family, i think having older siblings helping with younger ones is just a natural process. most people just have a few dc and only spaced 2-3yrs apart, so that just limits how much the older dc can do for the younger
i only have 2, but they are 9.5 yrs apart. dd1 helps dd2 alot with diaper changes, bath, carrying, etc and just general watching, especially for car rides.

most of dd1's friends are all over the baby and non have babies in their family. i think it's normal for preteen/teens to help with little children, some feel the desire more than others.
post #8 of 10
My best friend as a teen was the 3rd oldest of 12. She is now in her late 40s and she is STILL the go-to person in her family for all of her siblings, whether to mend a ripped hem or to give emotional or practical support. She says that she wishes she had a room with no doors or windows that she could be lifted into by a crane so that she could have some peace. She had to take care of them all when they were kids and now she feels that she still has to take care of them. They just go to her by default, there is just the assumption that she will drop everything for them just as she had to do when she was a teen.
post #9 of 10
Well, there is helping out for the good of the family, and there is indentured servitude. My husband is the oldest of 10. He feels like he has been a father forever, and had a lot of adult responsibilities dropped on his shoulders before he should have. His only sister (#5 in the family) had it even worse. She became the primary cook, cleaner and mother figure for the family when she was 10, at the time their mother had to go to work outside the home to help support their very large family. The pressure and guilt were monumental, and there is a lot of resentment today. None of the 10 has chosen to have a large family; most have 1 or 2 and some of no children.

Watching the little kids on a trip to the store, changing the occasional diaper and wiping dirty little faces = ok. Having to become the surrogate parent = not ok.
post #10 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post
You know that's a lovely, idealistic attitude. The fact is, some teens are going to resent having to bear lots of responsibilities and taking on a caretaker role, even if they love their younger siblings.

My sister (oldest of 5) has never had children. She swore that she changed enough diapers before she was 13 to last her a lifetime. I know she loves us all, she's generous and enjoys the company of her extended family, nieces and nephews. Maybe she would have preferred childlessness even if she was an only child or from a smaller family - it's impossible to know. What I do know, is that assuming a caretaking role did have a lasting effect on her.
Well stated. The last statement is true for me as well, though I'm not childless.

Quote:
Originally Posted by enkmom View Post
Well, there is helping out for the good of the family, and there is indentured servitude....

Watching the little kids on a trip to the store, changing the occasional diaper and wiping dirty little faces = ok. Having to become the surrogate parent = not ok.
I agree with this as well.
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