The influence of older siblings on their younger brothers and sisters can never be accurately measured in scientific terms, because the degrees will never be the same. However, I’ve never met a person or read a study that disputed the fact that older siblings can, and often do, influence the behavior of their younger counterparts. I know that the music my sisters listened to, the friends they hung around with, and the words they used had an effect on the music I listened to, the way I chose my friends, and my ability to hold my own in a debate on almost any subject; in fact, my middle school bus driver told me I’d argue with a stop sign. I told her she was wrong.
People notice the actions of others. The younger we are, the more likely we are to see the actions of others as demonstrations of acceptable public and private behavior. A household where the parents smoke in front of their children is much more likely to produce future smokers. (1) Likewise, a home where older brothers and sisters engage in self-destructive behavior, younger brothers or sisters have their eyes and ears focused on such conduct. Once again, the younger the child, leaving out the infant and toddler years, the more the actions of others is likely to be mimicked. The good news is that the same thing works in reverse.
Since there is no way to be sure that a teen’s brother or sister “will” follow the leader, pave their own path, or find some middle ground, it is always a smart move for older siblings to set a good example. I call it the “better than I was” strategy. Parents want their children to be better than they were at their age, smarter than they were at any age (I know, many of them, especially in the teen years think they already are), and making a better living than we did when they have been in the workforce for a short time. Older siblings should have the same philosophy concerning their brothers and sisters.
Psalm 8:4-8 (NIV) says, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him the ruler over the works of your hands, you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, and all that swim the paths of the sea.” When we consider that our brothers and sisters are just “a little lower than heavenly beings” we must also consider the consequences of corrupting such amazing creations of God. Would God be pleased with a brother or sister who helped lead a sibling further from His will and His calling? I doubt it. And that is why the “better than I was” strategy must be supplemented with a “role model” strategy and determined effort to lead by example. That little brother, that little sister, they see what you do. They mimic the ways you embrace as acceptable. Strive to make your examples close to that of a heavenly being.
(1) www.telegraph.co.uk. Smoking Parents Endanger Their Children. Aisling Irwin, Medical Correspondent [cited 5 May 2008] Available from http://www.telegraph.co.uk Look-up: ISSUE 1398 Wednesday 24 March 1999