What is the Virtue in Being the Oldest?
It can be difficult raising siblings, especially if the parents do not spend much time at home in raising the children, even if it is for work; this usually then means that the children are subject to other influences. One of the main sources of those influences T.V. for school-aged children is school, whereby they are subject to the indirect influences which their peers at school are raised by. To counter this, is the age old influence of the parents, and for parents to have any significant influence, they have to be more than physically present in the lives of their children. This means spending time with them, sharing in activities together, and having little chats which presents the opportunity for children to ask their parents about whatever is on their minds. When children have this kind of relationship with their parents (attention, consideration, and sharing); then their children are more receptive to what is required of them, and are given a living example to follow. Equally, just as you said, children are more receptive to being invited to do things, rather than being ordered to. In Islam, just as in natural parenting, instructions are not enough for a child. A child observes the reality around him, and then behaves accordingly, i.e. by example. Parenting expert Dr. Amini tells of the following letter he received from a young person:
“I opened my eyes in a poor family in a small village. The upkeep of my two sisters and me was beyond the means of my parents. My grand mother took me to her home. Her circumstances were better. She loved me very much. She used to buy good dresses and other things for me. But these comforts were no substitute for the love and affection of my mother and father that I wanted. I used to feel as if I had lost something. Many a time I used to cry inconsolably hiding from others view. I was a student of the Third Standard then. Once my father came to meet me, and he asked me to come home. I was overjoyed at the prospect and immediately got ready to go. I felt as if my troubles of years have come to an end in a moment. I advise all fathers and mothers not to deprive their children of their presence; love and affection by sending them away howsoever straitened the circumstances. They must realise that living away from the parents and being deprived of their personal love and affection will be very hard on the children. This void cannot be filled by any amount of comforts.”
He writes in another letter:
“I was deprived of the love and affection of my parents. That is the reason I am now a heart broken jealous person. I am a cowardly and angry person. In childhood I used to run away from my school. With difficulty I could reach till the Sixth Standard at the school and then dropped out.”
Your son may not feel angry, or may not even know that he is angry. He might not sent away, but what he needed was his parents “… personal love and affection”, not payment in kind i.e. material goods, treats etc.
It is unfortunate today that many parents are faced with hard choices between work and home, but unfortunately, children are the best of guides if we listen to them unconditionally. In this way we can learn much about how they think and feel, what they observe, and what is important to them. When they know you are interested in their daily lives, they will take interest in your life and what you ask of them. If to your son, it seems as if you are showing more concern for your daughter than him, do you not think he would then resent it?
Prophet Muhammed said: “When Allah – may He be glorified – wills some good towards the people of a household, He introduces kindness among them.” (Ahmad in al-Musnad, 6 #71, and Sahih al-Jaami’, #303).
Kindness cuts both ways, from you to your son, and from your son to you, with you providing the example from which he will learn to be with his sister insha-Allah.
“Allah loves kindness and rewards it in such a way that He does not reward for harshness or for anything else.” ( Muslim #2952)
So by not rewarding harshness, the punishment is felt.
‘Abd-Allah ibn Ja’far said: “Whenever Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) returned from a journey, we would be taken out to meet him. One day we met him, Hasan, Husayn and I. He carried one of us in front of him, and another on his back, until we entered Madinah.” (Muslim 4 #1885-2772).
Prophet Muhammed always showed his children affection.
“Our Lord! Grant unto us spouses and offspring who will be the comfort of our eyes, and give us (the grace) to lead the righteous.” (Al-Furqan 25:74)
The virtue in being the oldest, is that s/he can then teach what s/he has learnt, and be respected for it insha-Allah.