by Rachelle Lipschultz
Does birth order really matter? Are oldest children really that different from youngest children? Is the “middle child syndrome” a myth or a reality? In this issue of the e-zine, Professor Carol Miller explains how birth order can affect personality development, and how parents can avoid common pitfalls. Professor Miller teaches both Child Psychology and Developmental Psychology in the AACC Psychology Department, and is a licensed school counselor.
One issue that is often related to birth order is sibling rivalry. If this is an issue in your home, you may want to check out our book review of “Siblings Without Rivalry.” This is the first installment of our newest feature, online book reviews. You may also want to join Family Outreach Network for one of our new courses, "Managing Sibling Rivalry" (FON 324). You will learn to identify common causes of sibling rivalry and plan practical strategies to help youngsters resolve conflicts within the family. To learn how to register, visit /noncredit/ If you have questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-777-2159.
by Carol Miller
Many people often wonder “why does my child do this?” or “why does my child act this way?”. Well, of course there are many answers to those questions, but one of them is the child’s birth order. Birth order is a concept that attaches personality traits and characteristics to the order in which a person falls within their family unit.
Many sources tell us that one’s birth order contributes to certain personality characteristics. As a parent or caregiver, this can lend a bit of insight into the minds of children. Information can also be gleaned regarding the parenting needs of the children within the various groups. The specific birth order groups that will be discussed here include: First Borns, Middle Children, Youngest Children, and Only Children.
Wondering how a child’s rank within the family unit might impact his or her development? Here are a few scenarios:
- Older children are often given care-giving and rule enforcement responsibilities.
- Middle children have older children to look up to and younger children to set examples for.
- Youngest children may feel competition to succeed as much as (or more than) their older siblings.
- Only children may spend more time around adults and less time around other children, compared to kids who have siblings.
Let’s look at some of the characteristics of each group and how parents and caregivers can better relate to these children.
Tend to be self-assured, determined, comfortable around adults, and may crave the company of other children.
Advice for ParentsParents tend to have very high expectations for their only child, and may need to continually monitor their expectations to keep them realistic. They may pamper and dote on an only child, so make sure you don’t cross that line between attention and overindulgence. Parents of only children tend to be excellent at giving praise, which is wonderful for children.
Also, remember to let that only child be a kid. Be sure to get them involved in peer group activities such as scouts, 4-H, lessons, etc. Help the only child set up social groups with friends, cousins, and neighbors. It is also important to teach an only child to share. One fun way to teach them sharing is to help them select some of their unused toys and donate them to less fortunate children.
Tend to be adored and indulged, they like attention and the spotlight, are typically risk-takers, and can be very driven to succeed.
Advice for Parents
Parents can sometimes use older children as the measuring stick for younger children. This can create or enhance sibling rivalry. It can be more difficult to spend one-on-one time with the youngest, but it is very important. Be sure to give the youngest child responsibilities. Even at a young age, children can be put in charge of simple tasks or chores. Also, realize that you should be just as strict with the youngest as you were with older siblings. Easing up on these demands can impact not only the youngest child, but also add to sibling rivalry issues.
Tend to be calmer, but also feel that they do not get enough attention. They will typically seek out attention from peers and form strong friendships. They could be highly skilled negotiators or the type that goes out of their way to avoid conflicts.
Advice for Parents
Help find ways for the middle child to feel special. Make sure they have some activities that are just for them, find a special talent and help them enhance it. Be sure to spend some one-on-one time with them. The small things can really make a difference to any child, but especially a Middle.
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