Who teaches whom?

The importance of play to a young child’s development and learning is a recurrent theme on my blog. Equally so is the recognition of parents as their child’s first and most important teachers. Alongside this is my acknowledgement of the contribution made by my children to my own learning, especially to my understanding of how children learn.

Although I was often reminded that I had declared, “I’ll teach him,” when a younger brother was born, I had never given a great deal of thought to the teacher-role of siblings. How much that had to do with the reminders of my promise only coming when “naughty” things were occurring, I’m not sure.

Whatever the reason for my lack of consideration, I was quite delighted when I came across the post Siblings are a young child’s most influential teacher by Deborah Stewart on Teach Preschool. In this lovely post Deborah provides a wonderful list of lessons learned from siblings, and supports it with beautiful photographic evidence of her three gorgeous grandchildren.

Included in her list are things like learning to:

  • be imaginative
  • trust
  • be brave
  • try new things
  • be kind
  • laugh, and
  • love.

I have a large number of siblings from whom I’m sure I learned many things. As my younger brother could testify, probably not all of them were good. Deborah’s post challenged me to think about what those lessons might have been.

My big sister and me © Norah Colvin

My big sister and me © Norah Colvin

 

Here are some of the (better) ones I thought of, that weren’t on Deborah’s list:

  • to share, to take turns, and to wait (unless there’s only a few more cookies or lollies on the plate, then you’d better get in quickly before someone else does!)

marshmallow 5

  • that you can’t always be first or win, and
  • that the world doesn’t revolve around you
  • to make our own fun by creating our own games
  • to get along with children of all ages
  • to play without the constant participation or supervision of adults
  • to look out for and look after each other
  • to plan together
  • to forgive and get on with it
  • that a combined effort was more likely to get us an ice cream from the ice cream van than a succession of individual appeals.

Some of these lessons weren’t easy, and some are still in progress, but important life lessons nevertheless.

What about you? Do you have siblings, or are you an only child? If you have siblings, what have you learned from them?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

27 thoughts on “Who teaches whom?

  1. Bec

    What a lovely thought – and don’t we see it with our family’s little ones! I am sure my brother taught me lots of things too… I would say ‘how to be the favourite child’ but I’m pretty sure I worked that one out on my own! (he he)

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  2. Sacha Black

    Technically an only child – in that I grew up alone with my mum. My dad however had more children, but I never lived with them. Seeing that list makes me (just for a second) reconsider having another child. If only it weren’t so prohibitively expensive for us to get pregnant. sigh.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I think there are also advantages in being an only child. You probably know that yourself. With twelve years between my two, they were almost only children too, without siblings close in age. I think the relationship with the parents can be enhanced, and they become very confident around other adults.
      It is a shame it is so expensive for you to become pregnant. Another one of those ‘born too soon’ issues. I’m sure it will become less so in the future.

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  3. Lisa Reiter

    Oh Norah! I was that eldest sibling! There were only 2 of us with nearly 4 years apart. It never felt like the ‘perfect’ gap to me but I have no other experience to compare it to. I seem to remember gender combination and order are important too. Unluckily we were the ‘worst’ match of older girl, younger boy.
    I laugh when I think of people I know from larger families though – they do seem to grab ‘their share’ off plates quicker than others!

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m sorry to hear you were the ‘worst’ match. I hope you both get on well now. I agree that gender combination and order are both very influential, along with many other things. Not only did we get in for our share real quick, we also gobbled it down quickly. If others finished before us and there was still something on our plate, it would quickly disappear! I have learned to eat more slowly over time. 🙂

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  4. katespencer17

    Your post, as always was thought provoking. I agree with Caroline’s thought – I believe birth order does influence the lessons we learn from our siblings. I had an older brother and many of my lessons were the same as yours. I chuckle as I still remember the times we combined our efforts to weasel our father to stop for ice cream on our ride home from the summer cottage.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Kate. It’s nice to know that we are all learning similar positive messages. How to weasel a treat from a parent is a great beginning! 🙂

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  5. Sarah Brentyn

    I have said, numerous times, that siblings are important to our childhood (and adulthood). I think people, in general, underestimate the importance of the relationship between siblings, for good or for ill. This is yet another post I could go on and on about in comments but I won’t. I will say that, from my own experience and from watching my children, I know how crucial a role siblings play in how we learn, grow, and, ultimately, live our lives. Great post.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you again, Sarah. I’d love to know more of your thinking about siblings. As I said, I hadn’t thought too much about what I’d learned from mine, positives anyway, so it was nice to ponder upon it a bit. I did see wonderful learning occurring between my two, and see it again with my grandchildren. There is a twelve year age difference between my two. I always felt they were both only children with all the advantages that brought, but they also have each other, and all the advantages that brings. When I see the closeness between my two little grandchildren I feel quite envious. The love between the two of them is amazing.

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      1. Sarah Brentyn

        Ooh. Well… It’s not always cuddly. There are age differences (too far apart, too close) that can cause disconnect or rivalry. Or can flip and cause an almost parent-like protectiveness or a very convenient best friend. 🙂 It depends on the individual and the family situation. Such an enormous topic.

        With my two, it’s interesting. Each has his own special needs and it could have gone badly but they support each other in ways they may not even be aware of. ❤️ If that makes sense.

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        1. Norah Post author

          I don’t know if there is a magic age difference. I did read once that four years was recommended. It gave the first time to realise separateness from parents and so avoid the jealousy issue. But I don’t know. My two still (playfully, I hope) “fight” over who is the favourite. And I love them both equally. Oldest was the first best thing that happened to me. Youngest was the second best thing. (not second best – best occurring second). They are both equal best!
          I’m so pleased that your two support each other so well. I know they have wonderful role models, so why wouldn’t they?

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  6. Annecdotist

    Interesting, Norah. There’s no doubt we must learn things from our siblings – but we might need to unlearn some of it later on! Commenting purely hypothetically, of course. My next novel is to be dedicated to all four of mine.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Another enticement about your next novel! Sounds interesting. I must admit, I had to think hard about what I had learned from my siblings. Ungrateful child that I was. I can think of other things that might have required a longer list!
      So, you are one of five. You have mentioned an older brother before. I wonder which place you held in the family.

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  7. Caroline

    Excellent list of things you learn from siblings, Norah. I recognise them all. I was one of 6, eldest girl, second in birth order. Does birth order make a difference I wonder? I would say I learned how to look after (boss about) my younger siblings from my position.
    Nice post! Caroline

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Caroline. I’m sure birth order does play some part in both what we learn and teach. Since you were the eldest girl, I’m sure most of those “looking after” roles fell on your shoulders rather than your brothers. I was third, second girl, and was often required to do the looking after also. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Gulara

    Fabulous post, Norah, so insightful! I watch my two kids and witness the admiration in the eyes of my daughter. She wants to do everything her brother does. And he of course has to learn to be patient and wait for his turn and to share his toys. Her experience is so much richer in some ways because of him.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I dare say his is richer because of her also. I notice the same thing in my little grandchildren. He is six. She is four. She studies him constantly. She adores him. She so much wants to be like him. But she so much wants to be herself also. They get along amazingly well. They fascinate me. There is twelve years between my own two. They adored (adore) each other too, and learn so much (still) from each other. Thank you for sharing. I love hearing about your gorgeous little ones.

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      1. Gulara

        Thank you, Norah. They are coming up to the age when they can play together. Still early days, but it’s lovely to watch them when they engage. As someone who spent many years without friends and playmates, it was really important for him to have a sibling. You are right, his life is richer for it.

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  9. annadelconte

    I spent quite a bit of time teaching my eldest two children; exposing them to music, art and educational experiences. The last two had far less ‘time alone with mum’ and yet … they are more adaptable and socially aware than the oldest two as well as having fewer concerns when it came to parent teacher interviews at school. Part of this has to do with personalities but part also has to do with position in the family. The youngest two believe that they brought themselves up, but I think that their older two siblings had a hand in it as well.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing the experiences of your family, Anne. I’m sure position in the family has a lot to do with it also. I reckon those older siblings probably had something to do with shaping the younger ones. There is a twelve year gap between my two children. The older was like a third young parent for the younger. He is a wonderful father to his own children now. I’m sure the experience helped.

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