My husband, the girls and I were driving to a wedding a few weeks ago listening to the radio when well known author and speaker, Dr. Kevin Leman came on talking about the birth order of kids in a family and where you are in the birth order often shapes you as a person. As we listened, we couldn’t believe how what he was saying was so true. My husband and I are both firstborns, so we are very similar in a lot of ways. According to Dr. Leman, “Clearly, firstborns are natural leaders. They also tend to be reliable, conscientious and perfectionists who don’t like surprises. Although, firstborns are typically aggressive, many are also compliant people pleasers. They are model children who have a strong need for approval from anyone in charge.”
Can you relate to this if you are a first born? How about your firstborn child? I know I can. I am a perfectionist and a people pleaser. My oldest daughter is too. Dr. Leman goes on to say how we parent or how our parents raised us is why we are how we are. I started thinking about how I treat my first child compared to my second. I do give her more responsibilities. I often say watch your little sister or help your little sister. I know, I had more responsibilities growing up, especially with three younger siblings.
Dr. Leman says as parents we need to watch that we aren’t “improvers” to our first born, meaning we don’t ask our child to do something and then improve what they have done. This makes them even more of a perfectionist because they feel they didn’t do what we want done the right way. Yes, I am guilty of that. I will straighten things up after I ask my daughter to straighten something up. It’s my perfectionist personality. Now that I am aware, I am going to work on that.
It’s funny how being a parent the first time is different than even the second time. A good example for my husband and I is the pacifier. When my oldest Randi Kay was born and she would drop her pacifier on the floor, we would rinse the pacifier in hot water and sterilize it before giving it back to her. With our second child Graci we didn’t go to extremes to sterilize, we would just rinse it with water and pop it back in her mouth. I know my brother and sister-in-law have four kids there just isn’t time to do all you did with the first baby as the fourth. There are three more kids to contend with.
So, what does Dr. Leman says about the other children after the firstborn? He says, “middle children often feel like their older brother gets all the glory while their younger sister escapes all discipline. Because the middle child feels that the world pays him less attention, he tends to be secretive; he does not openly share his thoughts or feelings. While lastborns may be charming, they also have the potential to be manipulative, spoiled or babied to the point of helplessness. The last child also loves the limelight.”
Now if you have an only child. Dr. Leman says they are like the firstborns, but they are even more responsible and even bigger perfectionists.
I can see how my second daughter is very similar to what Dr. Leman says as the lastborn. She is a little babied. She is charming and wants to keep up with her older sister, but can be a little spoiled and manipulative to get what she wants. Just recently my older daughter told me my younger one gets away with more than her. I didn’t realize I was letting her get away with more, but I started watching that. Dr. Leman says that’s true to statistics. “Statistics show the lastborn is least likely to be disciplined and the least likely to have to toe the mark the way the older children did. You can be sure your older children are watching you closely!”
And they are. I remember telling my mom the same thing about my younger siblings. I do recall my parents discipline was different for each one of us. My mom and dad could just look at me sternly and I would cry. Now, my brother and middle sister…that was a different story.
The birth order is definitely something to think about as we raise our children. I don’t know how much we can change how the birth order affects our children’s personalities, but we can at least try to work on any negative affects the birth order can have.
For more information about how to parent kids according to their birth order, check out Dr. Kevin Leman's "The Birth Order Book" Click here for a link to his site.