Ever wondered how siblings can turn out as different as day and night?
Case in point: Princes William and Harry. Raised in the same environment, both move in similar social circles, yet the former is a quiet family man, while the latter is a cheeky bachelor whose exploits have provided much tabloid fodder. The answer may have to do with where the brothers sit in the family tree, experts say. They also agree that a child’s family position can determine how well he’ll do academically, the type of career he will choose, even the hobbies he has. Should we factor in our kids’ birth order as we parent?
“In this era of small, planned families, birth-order theory is more relevant than ever,” blogs birth-order expert Michael Grose, who wrote Why First-borns Rule the World and Last-borns Want to Change It. “When families are small and the age gap between siblings is two years or less, then…birth-order theory adds a clearly defined, easily identifiable dimension to children’s personality development.”
Concurs marriage and family therapist Dr Hana Ra Adams, “Birth order gives parents a lens to look at their child. But don’t parent too closely to it as it has the potential to limit a child.”
Learn how to make the most of your children’s unique personalities to help them succeed in life.
First Born/Only Child
The firstborn is usually more responsible with leadership traits. These kids, who tend to be smarter and more mature, are also more competitive, conscientious and rule-driven, Dr Adams notes.
If you have an only child, mum and dad are their closest role models, so they will try to emulate them. If they’re your firstborn, they’ll help mum and dad out with chores, “teach” younger siblings things, as well as “parent” them, which may help them better retain information.
Firstborn boys tend to be more competitive while their female counterparts are usually bossy.
This child feels the weight of their responsibilities, sometimes to the point of feeling anxious and pressured. Plus, they carries the burden of perfectionism, since all they want to do in life is please you, their parents, which may result in them taking things too seriously.
Firstborn boys tend to be more competitive while their female counterparts are usually bossy. “Only children also feel responsible for their parent’s emotions,” notes Cornelia Dahinten family coach and director of The Parent You Want To Be — Conscious Parenting Training and Playgroups, which organises parenting workshops and talks. “And this responsibility increases the longer they remain an only child.”
Nurture your nugget
So that they lighten up, try not to be too critical, breathe down their neck, or put pressure on them to perform at optimal levels all the time. Balance their responsibilities with privileges, such as a later bedtime or more play dates.
“Help your eldest develop coping strategies to manage anxiety, if he or she has any,” suggests Dr Adams. “Also encourage teamwork between siblings instead of expecting the older one to ‘teach’ or ‘parent’, so it doesn’t breed resentment between them.”
If you only have one child, make sure they spend time with other kids early on, so they doesn’t have any difficulty relating to his peers. “Sign them up for play dates and go on holidays with extended family,” Dahinten suggests.
How about the other kids?
Your second child is quite likely the complete opposite of their older sibling. They’ll be fun-loving, less ambitious, relaxed and more of a go-with-the-flow type of tyke, Dahinten points out.
Because they receive less attention at home, children born second also tend to forge stronger bonds with friends and are the first ones to ask for a sleep-over or take a non-family trip as teenagers.
“Your middle child will also be good at negotiations as they often play mediator between the oldest and youngest,” Dr Adams adds.
“Your middle child will also be good at negotiations as they often play mediator between the oldest and youngest.”
As many as a third of parents with three kids admitted to not giving their middle child as much attention as they did their other two, according to a survey by online parenting resource The Baby Website. Your proverbial monkey-in-the-middle might feel like their needs and wants are ignored and they’re not valued as a family member. They may become a people pleaser or a rebel to gain attention.
If you have only two boys who are close in age, the competition is on! Tweedledum and Tweedledee will do battle over almost everything — from winning at sports to who can eat more pancakes at breakfast.
Nurture your nugget
Find ways to put your middle child in the spotlight, especially if they follow a superstar sibling. Learn what their interests and strengths are and encourage them to pursue these, rather than make them follow in their sibling’s path.
Also, make sure to take junior’s suggestions and opinions seriously, for instance, asking them to pick the movie or the restaurant during a family outing. Avoid comparing your second child to elder siblings as this could make them lose confidence.
Third child/youngest/“the baby”
“This child could get away with murder,” Dahinten quips. Lastborns are in a fortunate position as their older siblings have “broken” their parents in for them and fulfilled parental desires, leaving lastborns to live a carefree and pressure-free life. These jokesters are charming and likable. They are also generally less responsible and motivated, since their parents coddle them, while the older siblings pick up their slack.
On the flipside, they’re persistent as they learn from a young age that if they keep asking for what they want, they will eventually wear down their siblings and parents.
Attention-seeking at best and self-centred at their worst, they learn that since nobody ever listens to the “baby” of the family, the only way to get people’s attention is to demand it!
Because they receive the least discipline and fewer responsibilities, these guys have lots of time to hone their stand-up comedy routine. Attention-seeking at best and self-centred at their worst, they learn that since nobody ever listens to the “baby” of the family, the only way to get people’s attention is to demand it or by being funny and adorable.
Nurture your nugget
Don’t raise a spoiled child — give responsibilities and discipline your youngest as you would the elder kids. Nor should you be afraid to pressure them a little — as much you would the oldest. Since the youngest child is known to feel less than stellar because of their siblings’ accomplishments, remember to bolster their self-confidence by showing joy and pride in his achievements.
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