All your kids live in the same house, follow the same rules, and probably follow a similar schedule (unless they're spread far apart in age). If you birthed them, and they have the same father, they even share genes. So of course they'd be the same...right?
Wrong! Just living with those birds assures you they're very different, and that's because each of your fledglings has a different place on the family tree—just like you had a place on your family's tree when you were growing up. In fact, one of the best predictions in life is that whatever the firstborn in a family is and does, the secondborn in the family will go in a different (and oftentimes opposite) direction. And as much as you try to make your relationship with your children "equal and the same," there will always be one who is your favorite, and one you always want to knock off his or her perch because the two of you clash so much.
Why is that? Because parents (moms especially) tend to overidentify with the child in the same birth order position, and that can lead to too much pressure on that child...or too much favoritism. What you expect out of your children and how you treat them is what they will become.
Let's say your two kids are in a big fight, throwing words back and forth. You don't know who did what, and there's no way of being sure of the facts. But you're a firstborn. You remember being told, as you were growing up, "You know better than that. You should have stopped your brother. After all, he's younger." And you remember how angry that made you feel, because what happened wasn't your fault. With those memories in the back of your mind, how do you think you'll react to this tussle between your children?
That firstborn is going to get off the hook, and the secondborn is going to get hammered (whether he did anything or not...).
If you're a middleborn, what are you likely to say? "Come on, kids. Can't you just get along?"
If you're a lastborn, you're likely to hold the firstborn accountable. After all, he is older and should have known better. And your baby? He's so cute that he couldn't have done anything wrong.
See how it works? And it all has to do with your own birth order!
Let's say your children are late coming out of school—not just a little late, but 15 minutes late. How would you respond?
*What the firstborn would do: Fume, thinking, Those kids. They're always late. And I've got a schedule to keep. Tonight alone I've got to do....
*What the only child would do: Sit in your car and worry, Someone must have snatched them! I better call the police. Dial 9-1-1. Report my children as missing.
*What the middleborn would do: Figure, Well, they must be doing something after school. If they were in trouble, somebody would call me.
*What the lastborn would do: Drink coffee, turn up the radio, and call up a friend to chat on your cell phone.
Lastborns and middleborn moms tend to be more relaxed and fun-loving in their approach to parenting. When things get done, they get done. (Which works sometimes, and other times it can be problematic!)
Firstborn and only moms tend to pack 5 after-school activities into the week and keep an eye on their children's accomplishments. They also tend to be hard on their children—always pointing out what they could do better. After all, if you're a black-and-white thinker, you believe something can only be done one way (your way), and if it's done differently, it's wrong. You'll tend to be particularly hard on your firstborn child, who sets the standard for accomplishment in your family. So he'll get the brunt of your criticism, the middleborn will be smart enough to escape to his room or blend in with the woodwork to escape it, and you'll find fewer faults with the baby, since he's little, cute, and seen as less capable or helpless.
When you understand birth order and your resulting parenting style, you're way ahead of the game of the majority of parents, who can sometimes be clueless (even if they do have Ph.D.s behind their name). So why not pass the word along about birth order? It certainly makes for fascinating conversations around the dinner table....
Dr. Kevin Leman, internationally known psychologist, radio and television personality, and speaker, is the New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of Have a New Kid By Friday, Have a New Husband by Friday, Have a New You by Friday, Sheet Music, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, and The Birth Order Book. He has made thousands of house calls for radio and television programs, including Fox & Friends, The View, Fox's The Morning Show, Today, Oprah, CBS's The Early Show, In the Market with Janet Parshall, Live with Regis Philbin, CNN's American Morning, and Focus on the Family. Dr. Leman has served as a contributing family psychologist to Good Morning America. He and his wife, Sande, have four daughters and one son. http://www.drleman.com http://www.facebook.com/DrKevinLeman
Author photo copyright © 2007 by Tom Spitz Photography. All rights reserved.