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How Birth Order Affects Our Kids

Birth order is fascinating!

I have four sons, and I’m always looking for ways to explain why this one is this way and that one is that way. I’ll never fully figure them out of course, but it makes me feel a little better when something clicks and helps me understand them a little better.

Obviously there are countless factors which contribute to a kid’s personality, but in the little bit I’ve studied birth order, I’ve gotta say it makes a whole lotta sense. If my boys are any indication, the classic birth order profiles are pretty spot-on.

Birth order is not a perfect science, and there are exceptions to the rules. However I think a good look at where a child falls in the family line can give us some helpful clues to parenting them well.

Most of my insight comes from Kevin Leman’s book, The Birth Order Book. This book gives helpful insight and explanations about each of the positions in a family line. Here’s a quick summary of the three main positions in birth order…

FIRST BORN: Firstborns are typically hard working, conscientious, and lean toward perfectionism. A classic firstborn wants things to be orderly and prefers to be in control. First borns can be very hard on themselves, and sometimes also expect a lot of others. You’ll often find firstborns leading movements, and running companies. Over half of our country’s presidents were first-borns (or only children, which also fits a first-born personality profile…except usually to the max!)

Parenting first borns: Since firstborns aim to please, they are often easiest to parent. Leman suggests we should be careful not to take advantage of our over-achieving first borns, or be too critical of them. (They’re already hard on themselves.) We also need to remember that firstborns still need us, even if they don’t show it!

MIDDLE CHILDREN: Middle kids have earned a stigma as the “poor middles,” or having the infamous “middle child syndrome,” though being middle isn’t always so bad. Middle children are often great peacemakers, and independent. Because they can get overlooked in the family shuffle, they learn to entertain themselves. Middles are the ones most likely to seek belonging outside of the family, to explore (sometimes getting themselves into trouble,) and move away from family when they are grown. Middle children are said to have the most stable marriages as adults.

Parenting a Middle: What a middle child needs most is time and attention. We should time to listen and love on our middle kids. Give them a voice, and make sure they know they belong in your family.

YOUNGEST KIDS: The baby of the family is down to get by with a lot, and grow up in a less strict environment. Youngest kids know how to have their voices heard. By the youngest child, parents might be too tired (or old, or both) and therefore have relaxed the rules since the first-born days. But we shouldn’t be too hard on the youngest kids…they often just want to help and keep up with their older siblings, but they might not know how to show it. (spoken like a true firstborn! ;)) Youngest kids love to be the center of attention, which explains why a good number of comedians and entertainers are youngest kids.

Parenting youngest kids: Though it is normal to relax things by the time a third (or fourth…) child is born, it is important to hold younger kids to rules and boundaries. They need responsibilities and accountability just like their older siblings. (They also might need a stage and good lights. :))

There are many factors which can affect birth order traits: If there is a several year gap between two kids, the next one will often take on first born characteristics. Also the gender of the kids, mixed families, and adoptions will all affect birth order. The birth order of the parents will also affect how you parent your kids, which is an interesting study of its own!

It is absolutely worth it to take the time to study and understand each of your kids and the many variables that affect them. Different kids in the same family can have very different needs, and the more we understand them, the more we can support them as they develop to their greatest potential!

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