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How Birth Order Affects the Kids

Oldest, youngest or somewhere in between, birth order definitely influences a child’s personality, experiences and achievements.

Ever thought about how your birth order affects your personality and how you interact with others? Researchers have. Birth order can play a huge role in what you consider to be your strengths and weaknesses and how you react to situations. While not every person fits the stereotypes of their birth order, you may find traits that fit yourself or your children very closely. 

OLDEST CHILD

First borns are their parents’ one and only focus, at least for a short time, until a baby brother or sister comes along. Because of this, they are used to being the center of attention and may excel in school because they have had more one-on-one time to work on skills with the help of their parents. 

Strengths: They are generally dependable, cautious, conscientious, high achievers and responsible.

Challenges: Because they are given more responsibility at a younger age, they may be controlling and bossy. They often develop a “Type A” personality and can be hard on themselves and others. They tend to be perfectionists and can develop a fear of failure that makes it hard to step out of their comfort zone.

Parenting tips: Let your child know it is OK to make mistakes and that not everyone excels in every area. It’s also wise to make sure your expectations are age appropriate as parents often hold their first born child to a high standard.

MIDDLE CHILD

Middle children can often feel overlooked because they are stuck in between the over-achieving older sibling and the free-spirited and charming baby of the family. Feeling left out at home, middle children often seek out close relationships with friends and usually have a large social circle. 

Strengths: Middle children tend to be very social and are great peacemakers. They become good at negotiating and compromise and develop the ability to “go with the flow”. 

Challenges: It is never fun to feel left out or feel unimportant. This can lead to rebelliousness and feelings of inadequacy. 

Parenting tips: Encourage your middle child to pursue activities and interests that are unique to them. Make a point to spend a little extra one-on-one time with your middle child so that they don’t feel overlooked.

YOUNGEST CHILD

The youngest child of the family usually reaps the benefits from extra parent attention as well as attention from older siblings. Parents may have also, sometimes unknowingly, loosened the rules since the older children were born so the baby of the family may get away with more (or at least that’s how the older children view it). Youngest are often comfortable being the class clown and love to show off and make people laugh.

Strengths:  Youngest children are typically natural charmers and have an outgoing personality. Many comedians and actors are the youngest children. They are often risk takers and described as fearless.

Challenges: Parents may react less to accomplishments because they have seen it before and therefore the youngest child may feel like nothing is ever good enough. Parents can also have the tendency to coddle the youngest child, giving them less chores and responsibility and holding them to a lower standard than older kids. 

Parenting tips: Encourage your youngest child to be independent and learn to do things on their own. This will help build their self confidence and teach responsibility. Charismatic younger children love a chance to put their charms to good use. If this describes your child, consider what extracurricular activities might help them develop these gifts. 

ONLY CHILD

The only child and the oldest child have some similar traits because both have the parents undivided attention and love. Where the oldest child is eventually “dethroned” by the younger siblings, an only child has the benefit of one-on-one attention indefinitely. Dr. Kevn Leman, author of  The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are calls the only child a “super oldest child” because they develop similar traits as the oldest but to the extreme.

Strengths: Only children possess many of the traits that oldest children do (responsible, conscientious, perfectionist) but in addition they tend to be creative, more comfortable talking to adults than their peers, resourceful and independent.

Challenges: Because they are the only child in the family they do not have the chance to work on negotiating, compromise, sharing, flexibility and other things that come naturally when you interact with siblings. They may also feel lonely because they don’t always have another child to play with. 

Parenting tips: Encourage relationships with other children to build social skills with peers and give the only child the chance to experience situations that will help them learn flexibility and compromise. 

    It’s easy to see these traits as you observe your own family of origin and your children and how they react to each other. As you consider each person in relation to their birth order, consider their strengths and challenges as you discipline your kids, interact with them and encourage them in the things they love. 

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