I’ve always been fascinated by birth order and how it can shape an individual’s personality so significantly. When you think about it, in which order you are born is arbitrary, it’s not like all the bossy people happen to come out of the womb first…but is it coming out of the womb first that makes you bossy? Birth order can also have an impact on your personal relationships, like your marriage. My husband and I are both first born children which totally should spell disaster for our marriage. Well as it turns out, we have different personality traits that seem to balance each other out, so it works out well.
So what impact exactly does birth order have and how can we parent to those strengths and weaknesses, customizing our parenting style to our individual children’s needs. Well, here are some thoughts and theories.
First Born: Some general first born personality traits are attention grabbing, Type A, perfectionist, sensitive to criticism, driven, conventional and bossy. First born children are often afraid to fail in their parent’s eyes, so if you have a child that exudes these traits, try failing at something yourself and then show them how you handle failure. This can be an invaluable lesson.
Middle Children: Middle children often feel left out, are less bonded with the family and more likely to form friendships outside the family. They are flexible, diplomatic, and peacemakers. Putting that child in the spotlight, for example, having them decide what the family is going to do for the day, can help them feel that they are special, too.
Youngest Child: The baby in the family is usually the rule breaker, they are skilled at getting their way, and will test their limits. They tend to be hard-working and have a good sense of humor. As a parent by the time the baby comes around we’ve probably relaxed the rules a lot more and don’t discipline as fervently as we did the other kids. Keeping up the same expectations and rules that were given to the other children can help balance out the crazy.
Only Child: An only child is generally more comfortable with adults, and can have trouble forming bonds with kids their own age. This can be helped by giving them lots of opportunities for interaction with their peers. They are responsible and mature faster but can be sensitive to criticism just like first born children so, similarly, seeing a parent fail at something can be a valuable lesson.
This clearly is not an exact science; I can pull some of these traits and apply them to each of my kids. But recognizing that there are considerable differences in personalities that can merely be a factor of their birth order is a big step. I can try to counter balance some of that with parenting and hope that each child is given an opportunity to thrive based on their needs.
So what do you think? Does birth order matter, do you see it in your family?
The Today Show