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Raising Multiple Children: The Facts And Tips

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Raising multiple children is not much different from raising one child. After all, you are only dealing with one child at a time. In fact, the one thing that many people don't understand about large families is that the family is a group of individuals not just a group.

Each child is uniquely different from their other siblings. Each one has certain personality traits, gifts, abilities, and challenges. When parents understand that the key to raising multiple children is to treat each of them as individuals life gets much smoother.

In twenty -eight years of marriage my husband, Marc, and I have had eight children.

  • Yes, they are all ours. Together.
  • No, none of them are twins.
  • Yes, we do know what causes that.
  • Yes, we do own a t.v.
  • I am glad it is me and not you, too.

In large families the older kids automatically teach the younger ones.  Image:Marye Audet
In large families the older kids automatically teach the younger ones. Image:Marye Audet | Source

Sibling Rivalry, the Myth

Sibling rivalry is apparently quite a popular problem. It happens when a new baby comes into the house and the older child feels slighted, left out, and unloved. Normal? Not necessarily.

Generally when a new baby is on the way parents begin talking about the new baby, planning for the new baby, and all of a sudden, from Junior's point of view, he is out, the new baby is in and he wants his special place back. Easy to understand why he would feel that way, isn't it?

When a child is allowed to be part of the preparations he is more likely to be accepting of the addition. If he doesn't wish to be a part then he should not be coaxed but allowed to participate as much or as little as he likes without it being a big deal.

Once the new baby is in residence it should not have the entire attention of the household. If you are reading Junior a story and baby wakes up and fusses, continue on with the story, finishing it if you can. If the baby is very fussy, then excuse yourself, get the little one, and calmly finish the story while you are nursing the baby.

Too often the new baby becomes the head of the house, requiring all the attention. Junior hears things like, "Well, he is just a baby but you are a big boy!" and "Go play, I need to take care of the baby now."

It is really no wonder that sibling rivalry develops at that point.

As children grow, and more children are added to the family certain personalities will clash. It is normal. It doesn't need a title. As long as each child is respected for his gifts and abilities, and treated fairly there will be little sibling rivalry.

Generally the best way to handle the small outbreaks of rivalry is to ignore it. It is, after all, a ploy to get attention and to see which child will get the preferential treatment. If you look up and quietly say, "Please take this to another room, I am busy" then neither will have won and the argument will soon wind down.

Responsibility, Teach It Early and Well

Responsibility is important. When children have chores and things to be responsible for it makes them feel secure, a part of the family, and useful. Responsibilities carried out successfully create children who are self confident, resourceful, and think outside the box.

  • A one year old can pick up his toys with help.
  • A two year old can get mom's glasses from the other room, or grab a clean diaper for the new baby.
  • A three year old can clear a dishwasher, except the sharp things.
  • A four year old can set the table or make a salad. He can get the waste baskets from the rooms to be emptied.
  • A five year old can make a bed, entertain a fussy baby, or match socks (math and reading skills!)
  • A six year old can make sandwiches, clear the table, load a dishwasher, dust furniture.
  • A seven year old can clean a bathroom with nontoxic cleaners.
  • An eight year old can do his own laundry, rock a fussy baby, or clean the kitchen.
  • A nine year old can run the vacuum, make muffins for breakfast, or help with dinner.
  • A ten year old can make yeast bread, cakes, cookies, read a book to a sibling, or entertain the little ones while mom gets a quick nap.
  • By age 12 a child should be able to make any simple meal, clean, and babysit as needed.

Large families understand that everyone is working toward a common goal. Chores are a necessary part of every day and no one, least of all a weary mom, can do it all alone. By pitching in they know that they are contributing to the household and are important.

Sense of Humor Required

When there are many children in a family the house will not normally look like a page torn from Better Homes and Gardens.

You need a sense of humor to deal with all of the irritations that come up through- out the day. You need to have the ability to let certain things go and know what your priorities are.

Having a joyful spirit, wearing a smile, and speaking gently will allow your children to be relaxed. Children learn to treat others as they have been treated.If you have one child that is calling the others stupid morons more than likely he is getting that treatment from somewhere. Be sure it isn't you.

When you make a mistake, lose your temper, or act badly then be quick to admit that you are wrong and apologize. Parents are the example to their children.

Mom and Dad Come First

Sometimes, especially when you have a lot of children, it can be difficult to spend time together as husband and wife. Yet, unity in the marital relationship will keep the rest of the family dynamics running smoothly.

Teach your children to respect your time together as a couple. Allow them to see that you value your relationship with your spouse. Make time for each other, even if it is only a weekly coffee date.

Children find security when their parents have strong marriages. Make your relationship a priority.

Common Goals

A large family is a group of individuals working together toward a common goal. When children are raised with this understanding they learn to work together, to encourage each other, and to help each other out. In large families there is no time for selfishness or self involvement.

If you have many children, or plan to, keep your expectations attainable but high. Children will become what they believe they are. By instilling in them a belief that they are important, secure, intelligent, compassionate, an gifted they will become those things to the best of their ability.

There are some things you learn in large families that can't be learned any other way. It is a wonderful experience.


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    • profile image


      19 months ago

      gm williams

      you're so right. about all but one.... that ALL parents of large families are selfish. My mother and her siblings are of 6. They are among the most difficult and unkind of people. They are uneducated and half are poor. And yes... they are selfish. Incredibly. SELFISH.

      But.... not me. That resonated with me when you talked about having a care free childhood. See I have 4 of my own and when I became a mom I knew something dramatic changed in my core- that it was my job to bathe, feed, clothe, and babysit them. That's why I don't make my oldest do those things. But one thing I do make her do... is help. I had to learn at some point in my own childhood how to do the things that you're outspoken about... and learning to do them for others is healthy. One day she may be a mom and will have this experience. Large families are blessings honestly, if the parents are mature enough. My grandmother was a child herself and never grew up past the age of 10 (that's when her mother died). Unfortunately, what your viewing is the majority of society. I grew up with hateful people around me all of my life. Now Im mom of many people... and it/s hard. Im doing everything... like you said. I didn't have too many children though I am completely overwhelmed and love them dearly. This is so hard and have been in tears today over it... but Im not selfish. I love them and a true mother's heart always reacts in servitude. I will probably service my children until I die. But selfish... Not at all.

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      6 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Thank you!

    • MelChi profile image

      Melanie Chisnall 

      6 years ago from Cape Town, South Africa

      You have made me really think about having more than the average two children when we start a family, and also brought up the positive side of having a large family - thank you. Too often - thanks to the likes of "Kate + 8" and "Octomom", we have negative connotations regarding larger families. This was very refreshing, with some great tips and information.

    • sandrabusby profile image

      Sandra Busby 

      6 years ago from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

      What I thought was really useful was what tasks a child is capable of doing at what age. Thanks. Sandra Busby

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I loved this post! I have five very well adjusted and individually loved children. They all have their own very unique personalities. I do not agree with anything gmwilliams said. My children donate toys and clothes to the less fortunate often, have served food to the homeless, donate their own birthday money to charities by their own choice and love to visit and sing hymns to the elderly. They always have a buddy to play with and have a huge variety of things to do. Not because we have lots of money, but because they are all so very unique and have different interest, therefore they all have very different toys, books and crafts and they enjoy sharing with each other. They have learned to be part of a team and work well with others while learning responsibility and building good work ethic. By learning to be independent they are able to come into the adult world and take care of themselves and not depend on their parents or any other source. My eldest is 18 and she is the first in my direct line of women from my family to go to college and not have a teen pregnancy. She is working two jobs and paying for college on her own. Most single children are too spoiled to even consider working this hard. My youngest, who just turned four has been writing her name for several months now, recognizes all the letters, can count, knows her shapes, colors etc..., as all of my children did before school. I have noticed with some of my friends who only have 1 or 2 kids, their kids usually do not play well with others and can not communicate or articulate as well at a young age.

      As for children deserving a carefree childhood...when does gmwilliams suggest you teach them core values? Should we just let them run around doing anything they please until they're 18 and then teach them so that their childhood can be carefree? As you said at the end, there are things learned in a large family that can't be learned any other way. God bless.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I loved your message because my husband and I are going we get a lot of rude commets for having 4 and 1 on the way. We love are children and wouldn't change it. They are amazing. it does get hectic sometimes but hey at least your never bored.

    • Felipe717 profile image


      6 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Great hub! I have 5 and it feels like a roller coaster ride that will never end. Some people like roller coasters and some don't. I feel like I am being tossed around but I am enjoying it. Having a sense of humor helps out especailly when we can laugh at each other and with each other.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i am currently a mother of five and recently found out i was pregnant with my sixth child and i have always worked and think its sometimes far harder for mums who stay at home! my biggest fear when i found out i was pregant was the fear of stigma the inevitable oh you dont own a tv or presuming i must be on benefits thanks for you're hub its made me feel im not alone thanks x

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have 4 children and although things get hectic, I would not trade it. I cannot speak to assigning raising younger children to older ones (my kids are only 5 years apart in age-- 2 sets of twins), but I will say that the 1 and 2 child families I know also have their issues. Namely, spoiled bratty kid who don't know how to behave. It is easier for a parent to be lax where behavior is concerned with a smaller family. Larger families almost force you to discipline which actually will produce more successful adults who have impulse control and don't expect the world to be handed to them. In addition, there are families with numerous children do to combined families through marriage and death (a friend adopted her sister's 3 to raise with her own 2 after the sister passed away). No matter the size of the family, it all comes down to how they are raised, how they are disciplined, and the expectations of the parents. My kids know that they are expected to go to college or trade school and to have a skill and eventually support themselves. That's should be the goal of every parent (small or large family)-- to produce children that will not become a burden on society but rather a contributing member.

    • Marye Audet profile imageAUTHOR

      Marye Audet 

      7 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      gm williams... obviously you have not met my children. I find comments like yours uneducated, inexperienced, and sadlt judgemental, putting all large families in a proverbial box.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      I do not finish on commenting on your hub. I wanted to add that women with outside jobs and/or careers are less likely to have large families than women who have outside lives and hobbies which includes friends and a viable career. I believe that one to two children are enough for a parent to effective raise i.e. to provide their children with the individualized attention that they need and to expose them to cultural and intellectual activities such as museums, plays, and overseas trips.

      I feel that parents who have large families are SELFISH. Yes, selfish. They incessantly have children without giving much thought to how their continual bringing of other children into the family affect the children already there. I believe that children WERE NOT PLACED on this earth to be surrogate parents and in loco parentis to their younger siblings. It is the parents' job to care for their children i.e. to read to them, bathe, them, and to perform all the other parent-related duties. If you have to assign the care of a child to an older sibling, guess what? You have TOO MANY children. If you as a parent cannot care for them, then DON'T HAVE THEM!

      The large family is clearly abnormal. Studies show that children from large families are ADVERSELY affected by being raised and being part of a large family. Oldest children are often coerced into being surrogate parents at a very young age. I feel that parents in large families HAVE IT SOOO EASY. They DO NOT RAISE their children nor PARTICIPATE in the household chores! They coerce the oldest child into being an unpaid mother, nanny, and housekeeper which is not right at all. I believe that all children are ENTITLED to a CAREFREE childhod.

      Any parent who coerce the oldest child/older children into being surrogate parents and/or in loco parentis for their children are abusive parents who should be reported to child care authorities. The large family is the WORST SYSTEM that children can grow up in.

      Sociologists, psychologist, and social scientists maintain that children growing up in large families FARE WORST OFF than children in small families psychologically, emotionally, and intellectually. When parents teach children which occurs in small families, children are more advanced because parents, as adults, have more education and experience than siblings do. A sibling teaching another sibling something is NOTHING COMPARED to what a parent teaches. A sibling is not as developed educationally and agewise as a parent is. Come on, use your brain! That is one of the reasons why children from large families are less intellectually developed than children from small families. Parents know infinitely more than any sibling does.

      Children from large families also fare worst off socioeconomically from the time they are. The majority of children from large families are born into the lower socioeconomic rungs of society. Most large families receive OUTSIDE subsidization than small families do. Children from large families are low academic achievers who score lower on intelligent tests than children from small families.

      Children from large families, because of scant parental attention and supervision, are more likely to gravitate towards gangs and to indulge in other deleterious and delinquent activities. Sociologists stated that children from large families are more likely to become delinquents than children from small families. Furthermore, teen girls from large families ARE MORE LIKELY to become pregnant than girls from small families because they receive little or no affection from their parents. I should know- I have two maternal aunts and four maternal first cousins, all from large families who fit this pattern.

      Children from large families are usually the LEAST EDUCATED of all the family groups. They are the least likely to attend college and/or postgraduate school as their parents can ill afford to effectively educated their large brood. As a result of this, children from large families are found mostly in menial and dead end jobs which offer no prospects for promotion and upward mobility. So they end up the poorest socioeconomically in adulthood and in later years.

      Also, children in large families, studies show, are more likely to get alzheimers in their later years than children from small families. Yes, the large family is a SURE WINNER! Oh, yeah!

      I believe the large family to be atavistic and passe. The large family is outmoded in the highly industrialized and civilized societies of the 20th and 21st centuries. Large families were find in neolithic and agrarian societies where extra people were needed to hunt and to farm the land. Yes, during those times,the more the merrier! But not today. Parents are looking for the QUALITATIVE parenting that a small family provides.

      I seriously question the intelligence and insanity of parents who incessantly reproduce children. Children are not part of litters, but beautiful, individualized human entities who are entitled to individualized attention and to be provided with the best educational, intellectual, financial, and cultural opportunities possible. I value QUALITY over QUANTITY.

      The large family is bad overall for the parents and especially for the children. To reiterate, the large family is totally atavistic. There is birth control. Intelligent people use family planning in order for their children to have a happy and healthy life.

    • gmwilliams profile image

      Grace Marguerite Williams 

      7 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

      Studies show that children growing up in large families receive less individualized attention from their parents than children in small families. Children in large families have little sense of individuation and self because children in large families are raised to part of the pack and/or group think. Children in large families are not taught to be individuals, which is sad.

      In large families, children have to schedule time to be with their parents. Furthermore, in large families, children RAISE each other, not the parent. The burden of raising the younger siblings falls on the oldest/older siblings which causes him/her to miss out on crucial stages of his/her childhood and teenaged years.

      Parents who have large families simply DO NOT HAVE ENOUGH outside interests such as friends, hobbies, and social life. They invert all those normal desires into abnormalities producing a lot of children. Please read, get involved in community and social activities such as reading and mentoring underprivileged children and teens, counsel battered women, volunteer with the elderly, volunteer in homeless shelters, and get an outside job. Women with outsides and/or careers are less

    • itakins profile image


      8 years ago from Irl

      As a mum of 10 (1 husband!)I totally agree with you.I rarely saw evidence of sibling rivalry and kids always have someone with whom they can share whether it's play or problems.Yes the house gets chaotic at times;but with everyone on board a tidy up takes no time at all.

      Great great hub.

    • Starr Coudal profile image

      Starr Coudal 

      9 years ago

      I have three. I wish I could or did have more! I am one of 5. I personally agree -- children do fight, but I think sibling rivalry is overstated. I have felt more love for my siblings than rivalry and I believe my kids are the same way. Great hub, thanks!

    • moonlake profile image


      10 years ago from America

      We had three and the minute we walked in the house with the last baby our oldest child disliked the baby from that moment on. There was nine years between them. We included the oldest in everything but it didn't seem to help. He never would get close to his baby brother and it's still that way to this day. Even when the youngest lay dying in a hospital the oldest told us we were spending to much time at the hospital. We were lucky our youngest lived.

      I don't know how you handle 8. I give you lots of credit for it. I think bigger families are closer.

      Enjoyed your hub.

    • efeglo profile image


      10 years ago from Nigeria

      I believe that some people have their reasons for having more children. All we need do is to pray for them for long life and prosperity. Thanks for the nice hubs.


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