Does Birth Order Make A Difference?

I meet a lot of parents who are amused and sometimes dismayed at how different their children are from each other.

“Same household,” one couple said. “And we’re the same parents doing pretty much the same thing. Are you seriously suggesting that birth order accounts for our children’s differences?”

The children these particular parents were describing were two boys, Justin, age 7 and Brian, age 9. Justin was struggling in school while Brian was functioning beyond his grade level with very little effort.  Brian, however, was reluctant to take risks while new challenges in the physical world couldn’t come fast enough for Justin.

Testing showed nothing significant to account for the academic differences. At home, both parents were warm, and caring. They needed to understanding of why these siblings were so different from each other. Then,  they could adjust their parenting techniques to reflect those differences. A part of that explanation came from understand birth order.

Imagine for a moment arriving into a universe where all you see/experience are adults who have all of their child-tending time and energy focused on you. This is the world that greets the first child. Now imagine arriving into a universe where you see/experience those same adults, but now their energy and attention is divided between you and a two-year-old. Even if nothing else is different, birth order has altered where the newborn “fits.” Usually, however, there will be other, often subtle differences. Parents have more or less time, more or less confidence about how to parent, and  more or less money. These differences, along with countless others, alters the world the infant enters even more. It is these differences and their  impact that researchers study to come up with how they describe the influence of birth order.

Children need to feel loved and special, and they will usually figure out what is needed to gain a parent’s attention, along with what is needed to belong and to be unique in a family. Birth order influences how they accomplish this.

In upcoming blogs, we’ll talk about the norms for each birth order position, the pluses and minuses of each position, and the factors that produce the exceptions, because all of us know someone who doesn’t fit the norm. And finally we’ll take a look at how parents can incorporate the principals from birth order research to help their children. We’re quite convinced that, although children from the same family may be different from their brothers and sisters, they each have the opportunity to be extraordinary, and understanding birth order can allow us to help them become extraordinary.



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