Living in the shadow

When parents fail to make decisions individually for their children, their children will go through their lives living in the shadow of their siblings.

Shadowing a sibling doesn’t happen through choice. It usually comes through a parents’ inability to let their children live independent lives. It’s an easy way for parents to parent. It becomes a one size fits all parenting strategy.

I’m not sure whether this is the nature of all families, but having done some research it seems to be attached to family scenarios. It becomes enormously difficult for children when all they want to do is live their own lives and they can’t because they have a sibling who is expected to shadow them.

For the sibling that shadows an elder sister or brother means it’s hard for that sibling too, because it’s not something that sibling will have asked for, or even wants. It doesn’t work for the sibling being shadowed or the sibling doing the shadowing.

It becomes a no win situation for both children, living identical lives. When parents continue to re-enforce sibling shadowing, it’s hard for those siblings to change things for themselves. I’m not sure whether it’s something that ever really changes and if it does, is it something that’s easily forgotten? I think not.

I believe it’s up to us as parents to parent without designing a sibling to substitute their role, no matter what the circumstances or scenario.


13 Oct, 2014

6 thoughts on “Living in the shadow

  1. My parents didn’t do this, probably because I was in trouble too much and they didn’t want my sister to turn out like me. They probably wished that it was the other way around, me shadowing my sister.

    I got a lot of “why can’t you be like your sister” vibes from them, but in the long run I turned out okay and was just going through rebellion and teenage stuff. I don’t think shadowing is right.

    We all need to be our own person, not like someone else.

    1. Thanks Lisa. You weren’t living in your sister’s shadow but you were compared to her. From what you say though, it sounds like your sister pretty much conformed to her life and got on with things. I can understand your parents wanting you to follow and be more like your sister. Your sister will have been easier to deal with.

      What your parents probably failed to realise is that had you been given a little more rope, you wouldn’t have gone through the teen rebellious phase so much. Teenagers are more likely to conform better when their parents give them space to grow and experience a little bit of life.

      Given what you had to deal with because of Diabetes your parents wrapped you up in cotton wool and held you back. You rebelled because you were held back.

      I agree with you, no child should be compared to, or be made to follow another child’s example.

  2. I can see how wrong it is to treat any child like that. We are all individual and should always be treated so, child or adult.

    I do have one memory, which lasted all of my school years living in the shadow of my brother, because he worked in school and I didn’t or wouldn’t have done had my mother not insisted I also work.

    I lived in the shadow of my brother until I left school and home at the age of 18 when I finished school.

    1. If your mother had been able to persuade you to work without using your brother as a tool to get you to work, you probably wouldn’t have lived in your brother’s shadow or have been constantly compared to him in that way.

      I agree with you that we’re all individual and should be treated individually. Sometimes we have to look at the bigger picture of why someone behaves in the way they do. Having been ignored for all of your childhood by your parents, perhaps they should have asked themselves why, whilst looking at their own shortfalls in the way they parented you.

      The answers were there all the time.

  3. I was the youngest, so yes I did live in my siblings shadow for most of my childhood. I wasn’t a jock like my brother, who excelled in sports, so there wasn’t any way I could really compete!

    I learned from watching him that even with all that it didn’t seem like my parents really cared. It gives you a complex after a while so that it doesn’t seem worthwhile to accomplish anything because the people who are supposed to care, really don’t!

    My siblings escaped as soon as they could, so I was left to take the full wrath of my mother who broke my spirit! It’s no wonder that I’ve felt so defeated all my life.

    1. Thanks Randy. I understand how you feel. I suppose and although it’s no consolation I know, at least your weren’t compared to your brother. You could have been compared and lived in the shadow of your brother.

      I’m just wondering how your relationship with your brother is now and whether what happened to you in your formative has left its mark on your relationship.

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