How Children Benefit From Having Many Siblings
Note: These are generalizations. Follow the spirit regarding your family size and know that you can create a Zion environment for your children no matter how many of them there are as you turn to God for guidance. I believe, generally speaking, child development is more wholesome when siblings, and even what we call ‘large’ numbers of siblings, are together in a home when compared to single child or small sibling groups. Here are some of my reasons for this conviction.
- To have friends. Often there aren’t many children around to be friends with, having siblings solves that problem. Further, adults have a hard time having close friendships, and siblings give a great opportunity to have long term close friendships. The celestial kingdom of God will be more greatly desired when the children experience the heaven pre-show in the home. Home is a prototype of what heaven is. Prophets have said that heaven is the extension of the ideal home. Surely, we would picture heaven as a place where children have many companions their age with whom to pleasantly spend their time. They can look back on their childhood and say “that was fun, I have so many memories of happy times at home.” This will greatly motivate them to make choices which will enable them to the eventual home of the celestial kingdom, after which the home they were reared in was patterned.
- To increase sensory stimulus. Children will learn to speak faster as they hear others speaking more constantly throughout the day. This rapid growth will transfer to other areas such as reading and athletics as well. The children will serve as each other’s tutors, highly available tutors, to assist in one on one learning through the years.
- Having many siblings increases the odds that your personality will match one of your siblings’. A boy and a girl can get along in many things, but some things boys just enjoy differently than girls. Further, 2 boys can be of a very different temperament. One boy could like throwing a ball, the other could like playing video games, and thus even though there are 2 people, they often spend time alone. If you have more siblings, you’ll likely find among them people you quite enjoy. The athletic child will have someone to spar with, the thinking child will have someone to philosophize with, the lass with have someone to play school with, or to play dolls with, or to swing with. All children can get along now and then, but the joy of having more personality types in the group brings much satisfaction.
- Have alternative sibling role models. If one of your older siblings choses the dark side, you can likely have a different older sibling who chooses the light. Hopefully all your siblings will turn out to be good citizens in this world and the kingdom of God, but if not, the lad can still have someone other than a parent as a positive role model.
- Siblings hold each other accountable. If a single child or a child of 1 or 2 siblings is doing devious things in school or the community or the home, he can often get away with it by bribing the other siblings or being secretive. But when there are many siblings, there are many eyes, and they can help each other be accountable. A most destructive thing is when a child feels unwatched by loved ones, and thus allows themselves to do things which they would not do in front of family. Yes we all have times alone and we must all pass the test of doing what is right when no one is watching, but children often need extra help in these regards. Though we see a rare exception with Joseph in Egypt, it is rare for all siblings in a large group to conspire together to some evil without a few of them deflecting and reporting the behaviors to the parents or other authority figures.
- To avoid negative peer pressure. It isn’t being overly sheltering to provide your kids solid alternatives to potentially negative community influences. After all, the Savior did say “stand in holy places and be not moved”, and “cast not your pearls before swine”. When he said “be in the world but not of the world”, this doesn’t mean to throw our kids to the wolves without refuge. When there aren’t many people that would be a positive influence, it’s ok to not be a close friend to negative influences, because you’ll always have your siblings as your close friends. There is so much good fun that we don’t need to bother with the bad fun, and siblings can support each other in that because they have been shown the healthy resources from their parents, and they pass those beautiful traditions and preferences and joys onto the younger siblings. Siblings can support each other as they have similar goals of temple attendance, missionary service, and ultimate residence in the celestial kingdom of God.
- To have people who are taught the same standards as you. Your parents will teach the same set of standards to you, so you won’t have to challenge each other’s’ standards.
- Have sleepovers without dangerous situations. Often kids first experiment with drugs, pornography, immorality, and other illicit activities in the late hours of the night with their friends. The night can be a fun time and certainly a time you can spend with friends whom aren’t family at times but having the regular friendship of your siblings allows you to not be envious of the kids who spend most every night partying with their friends. To spend all nights thus is not healthy. There is a lot of room for joy and celebration when there are many siblings.
- To refine your character flaws. A single child will never learn how to not settle arguments, how to negotiate in play etc. to the extent which a child of siblings will. The child without siblings can leave a friendship if it is bothersome, but a child with siblings must learn the deep forgiveness required to go on living with someone with whom you sometimes get in arguments with. The child who must frequently live amongst others his age will need to say “I’m sorry” often, and “I forgive you” often. He will learn that he can’t always get what he wants for a meal or a chore or a toy, and that he must learn to mutually persuade others like himself rather than demand some gift. He will learn the divine skill of mercy, as he will frequently be required to administer it to his peers.
- To gain compassion for others. A sibling will often be put in a position to care for babies, etc. A person can learn the lessons of serving others as they are repeatedly called on to do so in the home.
- To become a great teacher. Having siblings means daily doing homework together and helping each other understand concepts in study and play. Little sessions of play time with children not of your family hardly compare to the great teaching which takes place day after day in the home.
- To allow the children to play under the supervision of parents. Often children without siblings want to go off and play elsewhere for long amounts of time on a regular basis. If a child has siblings with whom they can play, they can be happy with less frequent playtime outside of the supervision of the parent. It’s hard to know the standards that will be taught to your children when they are at someone else’s home.
- Have peers for homeschool! Homeschool is an excellent to raise faithful and educated children and having peers in the homeschool makes everything more exciting. You don’t have to worry about the negative teaching or negative peer pressure found in public schools as you have a group to learn with and from each other in your home. Homeschool is not right for everyone, but many will find this to be a mighty tool in Zion.
- Have someone to do chores with. Children will find more joy in doing household chores and duties if they have other children their age to do those chores with. They can encourage each other and teach each other how to do the tasks. They can look forward to the reward of playtime together as they accomplish their tasks, thus motivating them to complete them faster.
- Learn management and leadership. An older sibling, or one of the same age who has a current assignment as a leader for the day or for the chore or something, will learn how to motivate others to work, how to measure others’ work, how to appropriately chastise others for not doing their duties, etc.
- President Benson speaks of the well-known wisdom that children who come from larger families are often more well-rounded.
- Parents aren’t always available or interested in constantly playing children’s games, so children have each other to entertain.
- Parents of large sibling groups have developed more skills in parenting and are less likely to be overly exacting of the children, and less likely to be too enabling of the children. They don’t feel pressure to spoil the child with too much material means because the children are happy playing with each other and spend less time thinking for alternative routes to find joy, such as material/financial outlets. The parent of many siblings will see the wisdom in bringing up well rounded children rather than thinking it necessary to make their one child, their ‘one shot at greatness’, to be some superstar to carry on the glory of their name. Yes a parent will help each child to be their best, but the parent who has become well rounded by dealing intimately with the many different personalities of different children will help the children to be well rounded also. The parent who has seen various personalities in her children can better discern the personality of her children and support them in their differences instead of trying to mold the child to be a copy of themselves, or a copy of their other sibling, or of some other supposed role model child.
- A large family is a small government. It is a place where everyone has responsibilities. The amount of messes that are made are such that the cleaning cannot and should not be expected to all be done by the parents both for the parents’ sake and for the sake of the proper development of the child. Thus, the children will learn to work and cooperate more effectively than the children of small households.
This essay focuses on the benefits of large sibling groups for the children. An additional list could be written of the benefits for parents when it comes to having a large posterity. First and foremost of these would be the joy of posterity and the blessings in the kingdom of God for raising them. Even though parenting is rewarding in this life, it will be even more rewarding in the life to come with the weaknesses of the flesh are taken away, and we receive strong bodies and minds which aren’t subject to temptation and weakness. Then our children will forever thank and praise us for the services we have rendered them, and they will assist us in building our kingdoms forever. As your children grow to become chiefs themselves, the growth of their kingdoms will automatically build your kingdom. God is at the head, and all the accomplishments of his children are also attributed to him. So it will be when we become Gods. Some more practical benefits for the parent in having many children are tax breaks, built in babysitters, people to help clean the house, people to help tutor your younglings on reading and other skills, and the children having others to play with them instead of constantly nagging you to play. In the Doctrine and Covenants, Jesus Christ tells us that the more souls we bring to God, the more joy we will have: “Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people. And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!” (D&C 18:14-16)