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Birth Order

One of our children posted a picture on Facebook recently that got me thinking about the subject of today's blog post. Here's the picture:

Birth Order

Which of our children posted that picture? No fair telling if you saw it on Facebook!

When we were a young couple we read a lot of books about marriage and parenting. Neither of us grew up in the kind of home that we wanted our children to experience, so we did a lot of "borrowing brains" from people who enjoyed the kind of home we wanted to have. One of our favorite books about child rearing is called Know Your Child, by Joe Temple. We had always heard that you should try to treat all your children the same. In his book, Joe Temple maintains that parents cannot and should not deal with all their children in exactly the same way. Each child is unique, and what works with one child will often have the opposite effect with another child in the same family.

We began to see the wisdom in what he was saying when our second child Nora came along. It took no time at all for us to learn that she was very different in tastes and temperament from her older sister Megan. What had soothed Megan as a newborn noticeably irritated Nora. And the differences continued to manifest themselves as Nora grew. So when Mark came along, we weren't at all surprised that he was different from his sisters in his tastes and preferences.

Joe Temple's premise is that it is the parents' responsibility to get to know each of their children well so that they can guide each child's development. In encouraging children's good behavior and in correcting children's misbehavior it's vital to know what will be the most attention grabbing for that child so that the reward or discipline will have its greatest impact. What would have been torture to one of our children would have been almost a reward to one of the others, and vice versa — not at all what you want the child to experience. Another area is when to allow children certain freedoms. Some are ready at a younger age than siblings might be. We highly recommend this book to young parents.

Another book we read concerning differences in children was The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are, by Dr. Kevin Leman. While we could see the veracity of some tendencies in ourselves and our children, we weren't sure that it was entirely accurate in its portrayal of firstborns, middle children, last borns, and only children. Many factors in a child's life come into play in addition to and besides their place in birth order — individual temperaments, family size, genders of the children, family make up (blended, adoption/s, etc.), physicality (body size, health, etc.), giftedness or special needs, age gaps between children, and undoubtedly many more. Any of those factors could render inaccurate some or all generalities made about birth order.

In preparation for this post I read quite a few sites related to birth order, some of which totally rejected the whole notion of generalities. I thought it would be fun to post my findings from these sites (many of which are corroborated in Dr. Leman's book) and to see what my readers have to say about all this as they look at themselves and their siblings, and at their children and grandchildren.

Here's a compilation of what I found about the characteristics of children, according to their birth order.


Firstborns are used to being the center of attention, often over-achievers who are perfectionists. They feel a pressure to be the best. As the leader of the pack blessed with first-time parents and all that goes with that, firstborns often tend to be:

    Reliable / conscientious / responsible

Middle Child/ren

Middle children often feel like their older sibling gets all the praise while their younger sibling escapes all discipline. Because the middle child feels that the world pays him less attention, he tends to find importance in friends and peer groups. Middle children tend to work hard to create an identity different from their older and younger siblings. They can usually read people well, are peacemakers who can see all sides of a situation, and are inventive. In general, middle children tend to possess the following characteristics:

    Obsessed with fairness
    Thrives on friendships
    Has large social circle

Last Born

Youngest children tend to be the most free-spirited due to their parents' increased confidence and hence relaxation in parenting. Youngest children are more playful, and since they have to fight for attention, they often develop a sense of humor to accomplish that.The baby of the family tends to be:

    Fun-loving life of the party
    Risk taker
    Outgoing attention-seeker

Only Children

Only children are both firstborns and last borns. Being the only child is a unique position in a family. Without any siblings to compete with, the only child enjoys his parents' attention and resources, not just for a short period of time like a firstborn, but for his whole life. With that comes the burden of having all their parents' expectations on their shoulders. Thus, only children tend to be:

    Mature for their age
    Comfortable with older people

Well, what do you think about that as you look at your own family? As I look at those lists, I can see certain things that ring true, but certainly not all of them do. I definitely hope that no one will look at the things listed as inevitable. They are simply generalizations based upon observations. I look forward to your comments. 🙂


"It's not 'what I have done' but who I am in Christ." — Drew Conley


Are adults always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they're looking for ideas?

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11 Comments on “Birth Order”

  1. #1 Jonathan
    on Jul 1st, 2015 at 11:23 am

    As the youngest of 6, I’d have to say these generalizations aren’t even close.

  2. #2 Rob
    on Jul 1st, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Knowing you, Jonathan, I would have to agree … except maybe the sense of humor part…. 😉

  3. #3 Barbara H.
    on Jul 1st, 2015 at 11:33 am

    I was just thinking about this subject recently – thanks for doing the research and summing it up for me! I was thinking of it in connection with what some call the middle-child syndrome, thinking that, really, each child and place in birth order has its issues, and they could all have syndromes.

    While I see many of these characteristics in each of my children, I don’t see all of them in any of them.

  4. #4 Vikki
    on Jul 1st, 2015 at 11:33 am

    The pic up at the top looks like something either an oldest or a youngest child would post. But I would put my money on the youngest child.

    The definition of a Last Born sure doesn’t match our youngest at all, but the other two are spot on.

  5. #5 Janet O'Brien
    on Jul 1st, 2015 at 11:42 am

    It must be the middle child that posted it. My middle child is obsessed with birth order.

  6. #6 Betty Ann
    on Jul 1st, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    I found that my three girls did not fit perfectly. The oldest fit well, but the middle one was a combination of the 2nd and 3rd. However the youngest was more like the first born, because she was 7 years younger than the middle daughter. We also found that treating them the same DID NOT work. Good article.

  7. #7 Rob
    on Jul 1st, 2015 at 12:50 pm

    It’s interesting how this is trending. Becka and I said that, though several of the traits were true of our youngest, most of them weren’t at all. They may be true of many last borns, but not of ours. 🙂

  8. #8 Zina
    on Jul 1st, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    I think these descriptions fit our kids perfectly. We have 3 kids and they are all 2 years apart. We always called our middle child the mayo of the family sandwich because she was keeping the peace and helping everything run smoothly.
    I would say your youngest posted it.

  9. #9 Sharlene Clair
    on Jul 1st, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    I want your educated guess I’m what you have learned! Where do bob and I fall? Hehe

  10. #10 Rob
    on Jul 1st, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Wow, Shar! I’m not sure where each of you is in your families’ birth order. I didn’t get to spend enough time with you two at the reunion to be able to make a good guess. Did you find the descriptions accurate in the post?

  11. #11 Rob
    on Jul 8th, 2015 at 9:33 pm

    Janet was right — our middle child is the one who posted the picture at the beginning of this blog post. 😀