Mommy, pick me! The Impact of Birth Order
By Rocio Solaire Roca
Dedicated to My firstborn, My Middle child and My Little guy.
We are all aware that children do not come with an instruction manual. Still, it is our responsibility as parents, to do the best that we can with the tools that we are given. And having multiple children becomes more and more challenging as they grow up.
The firstborn is always special. First child. First grandchild. The experience of pregnancy and childbirth for the first time. This child tends to get everyone’s undivided attention. When the first child comes, most of us have no idea how to parent so we learn as we go. Sometimes, we’re not even halfway through the learning curve when the second one joins the family! This forces the first child to grow up way before his time. So the firstborn abruptly loses his title and all the attention now goes to the newborn. Not only that, but we often place our highest expectations on them. Now, they’re expected to set an example for the younger sibling and may feel a greater sense of responsibility to do so. Due to this, the child grows up craving for attention and his way of rebelling against the pressures of being “the firstborn” is by getting into trouble. Statistics show that the first born is usually the big trouble maker, and the black sheep of the family. But no matter what, the firstborn will always hold a special place in the family and he will never lose his “firstborn status”.
The middle child only shines for a little while until the oldest starts absorbing the attention by getting in trouble or until the next one is born, or both! Studies call it the middle child syndrome. Middle child syndrome is the belief that middle children are ignored or even neglected because of their birth order and this causes the child to feel invisible. Because of this, these children tend to have certain characteristics linked to being squeezed in the middle. Middle children tend to be people pleasers and work extra hard to try to fit in.
The little guy is the new kid on the block and all the attention goes to him. The little ones in a family of 2 or more kids will get spoiled. Especially if there is a big age gap. By the time the little guy comes, the middle child is getting zero attention or recognition. Because “little guy” gets so much attention and he has older siblings, he will probably grow up to be a self centered individual. Also, by the time a little guy is born, parents are so stressed out and overwhelmed that this one will get away with everything! This creates jealousy and resentment with the other siblings. Statistics also prove that the little guy never quite grows up. I know. I married one! And my mother is also the youngest of five siblings. And I can vouch for the fact that I have been my mother’s parent since the age of 5! It’s exhausting. And how can you be a good parent when you yourself are not able to mature past puberty?
Some argue that birth order is an unproven theory, but the older I get, the more I am convinced of the impact that birth order has on all individuals.
So what can we do as parents to make sure we raise our kids in a fair household democracy? I believe that the punishment must fit the crime and that it should be according to age. If a child acts out, he/she should face consequences regardless of age and birth order. I also believe that it is healthy to spend quality time with each child individually. This gives the child the opportunity to develop individuality as opposed to always doing activities as a family unit. Having one on one quality time with each child also makes them feel special and might minimize their “acting out”.
Of course every family is different and there are exceptions to everything. Of all the research I found on this subject, I found lots of conflicting theories. Overall, judging by my own family, I do believe that birth order affects our personalities and attachment styles. But no matter what, at the end of the day we must all remember that we all hold a special place in the family!