If you are a twenty-something who has grown up with younger siblings, you’re likely familiar with the phrase “monkey see, monkey do.” Younger siblings possess an innate desire to mimic you, as you are their “big” sister or brother. From their perspectives, everything you say and do is deemed necessary for them to imitate. They want to be just like you! With the privilege of being an older role model, comes the responsibility of behaving as a positive mentor. Since your younger siblings look up to you, it’s important for you to be an exemplar model. For this reason, it’s your job as big sister or brother to etch footsteps for them to follow along the path to success.
As your siblings progress along the course of their childhood, you are their main source of social interaction. From playing, bonding, and squabbling, siblings spend the majority of their time with one another. This strong social attachment can be a very positive experience, given that younger siblings can learn conflict resolution strategies, which will prove to be useful when they interact with school peers and friends throughout the years. Furthermore, when younger siblings imitate their older siblings’ social behavior, these youngsters are likely to replicate this behavior in their own social settings.
Peer Pressure Avoidance
As you were once a teenager yourself, you can likely recall feeling vulnerable to episodes of peer pressure. School peers and close friends are notorious for experimenting with alcohol and substance use during their teen years. Research has proven that when older siblings use tobacco and alcohol substances, younger brothers and sisters are three to five times likelier to experiment with substances as well. Additionally, 25-53% of younger siblings reported consuming alcohol when their older siblings admitted to drinking alcohol. Evidently, if you have or continue to yield to peer pressure and/or experiment with substances, you are setting the example for your younger brothers and sisters. By avoiding peer pressure you can send the subliminal message to your younger siblings to do the same.
We all know how challenging school can be. If you’re in college, you’re likely bombarded with lectures, reading assignments, projects, and non-stop exams. Whether from a distance or nearby, your younger siblings are exposed to the stresses you face in college. This exposure is healthy for your younger brothers and sisters because it demonstrates to them the importance of academic success. By succeeding in school, you will instill the value of academic achievement in your younger siblings. Modeling strong academic behaviors will promote scholastic endeavors for them, which is a positive pathway to setup for your siblings.
Growing up, your younger siblings are bound to follow in the footsteps you leave behind for them. They will mimic the behavior you model, confide in you for advice, and depend on you to teach them right from wrong. While your parents will accomplish the majority of the caretaking, it’s your responsibility as an older sibling to guide your brothers/sisters in ways your parents cannot. Being a positive mentor is not only a responsibility, but also a choice. Thus, do your siblings and yourself a favor by being the best role model you can possibly be!
Photo credit: Rachael Tulipano