Am I Too Tough on My Firstborn?


Sisters holding hands.I have been questioning the behavioral expectations of my firstborn daughter, who is five years old. I often hear myself reminding her that her younger sister, who is 18 months old, is watching everything she does. I tell her she needs to be a “good” role model. But what exactly does that mean?

My older daughter just entered elementary school and is still learning to handle and control her emotions. So I often wonder, am I being too tough on her? Am I putting too much pressure on her to be or act perfect in front of her younger sister?

This may also stem from a recent parent-teacher conference which went very well, but it was noted that my daughter is a perfectionist. It would make sense for her to yell or scream a little bit at home after keeping it all together at school. After all, five-year-olds have lots of energy!

On the one hand, by nature, she is the older one, and my little one is at the moment testing boundaries. Sometimes my older daughter will laugh when the younger one is “testing us,” which encourages the younger one’s behavior. I often tell her not to laugh or respond, but the reality is she is only five.

Of course, she wants to laugh and respond to her little sister, who is “so cute.” How does a parent react appropriately to this without encouraging some of the behavior and at the same time without putting it on the older one to “behave” a certain way as a role model?

I am unsure what I am doing is the best way to handle this. On the flip side, maybe a better strategy would be for me to acknowledge the behavior and re-direct it for everyone. In theory, this sounds like a better idea, but I am not sure how practical it is for a busy mom.

What I know is that I need to be more aware of how I ask my older daughter to respond to her little sister in those testing situations and be gentler so that she does not think she has to be perfect or behave in a “certain” way. After all, I love the bond that my two girls have and hope that it continues to blossom as they get older. 

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Bena is a a wife and mom to a little girl born in July 2017 and another little girl born in April 2021. Her and her husband, both born and raised in Long Island, randomly ended up living in New Rochelle, Westchester when they fell in love with what Westchester had to offer: beautiful parks, hiking trails, restaurants, cute towns, all while still being close to NYC. Since then they have moved around and ended up settling down in Edgemont/Scarsdale. Mostly, Bena is just trying to figure out how to do this mom thing, while also working a full-time job. After a few years of the juggling act, she feels a little more confident, but everyday there are new challenges, especially when #2 arrived. When she is not momming, she is usually lawyering, working out, cooking, running errands, having coffee, chocolate or wine, or somewhere out exploring nature and the world.