Three (or four, or five) children benefit one another

In the first segment on this discussion on why someone might make the countercultural decision to have more than two children, I said that most people wouldn’t deliberately limit themselves to two friends, but most Americans nowadays deliberately limit themselves to two children.

They often make this decision in isolation of the children themselves, deciding it while dating or when newly married, and then stick to it regardless of what the children seem to need.

I would assert that children need to interact with other children, and the lessons they learn within a healthy family are the best interaction possible. That includes parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles…and other siblings.

Children in a family of two get used to splitting things right down the middle. Children in a family with more learn life isn’t always a fifty-fifty split. They learn to negotiate. They learn to accept the short end of the stick sometimes in pursuit of family harmony (and in a family of more-than-two, it’s not as likely that one child will always receive the shorter end.)

Fights aren’t always right-and-wrong, black-and-white. In a three-child-household, there are three opinions rather than two during every squabble, so it’s harder to develop a mentality of “my enemy is always dead wrong.” Sometimes, your opponents are partially in agreement with you. Sometimes, one sides with you even though before the other two sided together.

With more siblings, there are more opportunities to learn to share, to pitch in, to help, to wait your turn, and to work together.

Two kids are pareners; three kids are a team. Two kids can keep tabs on one another; three kids need to learn to trust, and learn what happens when trust is broken. Two kids barter; three kids compromise. Two kids can each demand the full attention of one parent; three kids learn self-sufficiency and when to ask for help and when to demand it. Two kids take turns; three kids expand their game to accommodate all three simultaneously.

Two kids aren’t ruined for life by virtue of being two kids, of course (I was one of two kids for 14 years!) but three kids have more tools in their starting toolbox.

Pope JohnPaulII said one of the best gifts a family can give its children is the gift of a sibling, and I think the above is the reason why.

There’s more to say, but I think for now I may give this series a break. 🙂


  1. Jenni

    I’ve enjoyed your series on “three”.
    As the middle child, I would have missed out on my best friend if my parents had stopped at two. Of course we still got the “Oohh, you finally got your girl!” as I stood by hating my boyish haircut (better were the times she was the one mistaken for a boy). Now we are often asked if we are twins (we’re 4 years apart).
    As a child, I used to wonder who would get left behind if we won one of those “Disney vacation for four” contests. =)

  2. Beckah

    WOW! What a fresh perspective… we are toying with a third… and being the research hound I am I wanted to read everything because I didn’t ‘get’ it (two has been more than enough- they are 3 and 1). I didn’t see it as helping make our family less rigid. I just saw the work involved. But this makes me feel like it wouldn’t be cheating my kids but actually enriching their lives. Thank you so much.

    1. philangelus

      Every family has to make its own decisions about the ultimate shape of the family. But because the “standard” nowadays has become two children, it’s harder to get all the perspectives. I’m glad to have given you one more tool for your decision-making toolbox. 🙂 May God guide and bless your discernment process.

  3. stacey g

    i am having a 4th – unplanned – and this is making me feel somewhat better. the world is soooo very expensive, this is a reality but – if your children are raised properly to be close then the gift of a sibling is in fact a gift.

    1. philangelus

      Good luck and God bless with your 4th.

  4. Christine

    Thank you. We are pregnant with our third and as an only child I haven’t been able to imagine what it will be like. Your series helps.

    1. philangelus

      Thanks, and best of luck with your upcoming third! 🙂

  5. Adi

    My parents both came from families of three kids, and both wanted two for a very long time. I think that’s easy to understand, though. My father had a very tough time growing up, his oldest brother was trouble and the middle wasn’t as determined as he was to get out of that crummy town. I think he saw three children as too much to handle, and didn’t want to risk it. My mother essentially grew up as an only child because she was so far behind the other two, her sister was off to college before they could really bond, and her brother was long gone. I’m sure she just wanted her children to have a companion, and they both wanted my sister and I to be just a year apart. We ended up 4 years apart instead.

    I can understand why they made the decision that they did, but the house feels lonely sometimes. I’m not as close to my sister as I would like to be…it’s just easier for two to split up that I would imagine it is for three to do so. I definitely would love to have more siblings, and plan to have three of my own at the very least.