Are We There Yet?

The unique needs of firstborn children

They’re the kids who get the most attention, some studies show. Firstborns are likely to be natural leaders. They tend to be driven, assertive and task-oriented. They also have perfectionist tendencies and like to have thing their way. At least that’s what the literature on birth order theory states.

When it comes to parenting, we all know that one size doesn't fit all. That's also the case within families. Being fair and equal doesn't necessarily mean treating each child the same, I've learned. Although my kids are still really young, I've noticed that I have a different relationship with each one since my son and daughter have distinct personalities, aspirations and needs.

Some experts say that birth order -- plus the way parents treat their children as a result of their position in that order – explains some of these differences.

Firstborns have some very specific needs, according to several studies addressing the general characteristics of the eldest child. They tend to become “mini-adults” far before their years, according to this article on the website for Parents magazine. A USA Today article even described them as “CEO material” since they’re over-represented among entrepreneurs as well as American presidents and Rhodes Scholars.

Not every firstborn will match these stereotypes, of course. (That's certainly not the case in my family or with my kids.) But if you subscribe to the birth order theory, here are some tips from several online parenting sources to help you nurture your eldest child’s gifts and deal with his or her personality quirks:

-          Let your child make her or his own decisions

-          Don’t expect your firstborn to be accountable for the younger kids

-          Encourage them to compromise and to see the big picture (since they have perfectionist tendencies and often want things their own way)

-          Praise your child with “We’re proud of you” instead of always focusing on the straight As, the home run during the baseball game, the stellar piano performance, etc.

-          Spend time with your eldest, especially if the younger siblings require more of your time since they’re less independent

What’s your first-born like? How about the rest of your children? Does birth order have anything to do with your kids’ personalities and how you raise them?




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