Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Created Equal for Sure but not Treated as Such

Part One

Trained as a Developmentalist,  I have studied the universalities of childhood only to be struck by how different each child is.  We are created uniquely for some specific purpose in this world and that is so beautiful.  But somewhere between our developmental norms and our individual differences lay two common threads – gender generalities and birth order patterns.   We are going to leave gender alone for now and just talk birth order.

Even when siblings have genetically similar composition, every gene has to have an environment in which it is expressed – and that environment actually influences the expression of such gene.  Thanks to friend and college Dr. David Moore, a Harvard trained Professor of Psychology at Pitzer College for so eloquently explaining that concept it to me.   He outlines this whole notion in his book the Dependent Gene if you want a great primer on genetics. 

But back to the point - the family unit is a perfect place to see the similarities in things such as expressions, laughs, and mannerisms. It is also a great place see the differences in people who share these similarities. 

And one of the reasons we see differences in our children, is because even as we strive to be ‘fair,’ the reality is we parent each child differently.  As one friend of four stated- “It would be impossible for me to raise my daughter the same way I raised my first 3 kids – our house is totally different now!”   And that is better than okay – it is GREAT!

Confession – In order to help my toddler (now almost 11 years old) learn to play independently, I would lay on the floor in his room with my articles to read.  I would read and talk to him and read and highlight and then watch him some more.  It worked. 

But now, I certainly don’t lay on the floor with my 2-year old and read while she plays.  Are you kidding me?  I have too much to do and my daughter doesn’t even see it as an option. 

But my 2-year old is just fine tinkering around without me laying there watching her every move.  She is brave and spunky and when the house is quiet I know I need to go find her again.  She is a typical ‘later born’ kid.  And my oldest - well he would still LOVE IT if I would follow him around and watch him do him homework or practice piano every day.

My firstborn and I used to talk every night before bed about the past day and about what we had planned for the next day.  And as a 10 year old he still asks “so what are we doing tomorrow/today/this week?”.  He is curious and likes to plan.   My other children are not so much the planners.  They go with the flow.  They have different questions for me at night. 

So think about it…
What do you do now with many kids that you didn’t when you had just one? And what did you use to do with one that you don’t do now with many? 

How much of your firstborn’s character can you trace back to specific things you did with him/her that are unique to your parenting of that one child? 

How much of your later-born’s clowning around or outgoing personality can you attribute to being raised in a busier household?

What could you can do as a parent to help equip your children with certain skills that may not come as naturally given your family constellation?  For instance firstborns are typically more ‘take charge’ in social situations with kids their own age and younger.  That is a nice way of saying they can be down right bossy.  Every social situation needs one firstborn – but more than that can cause some friction.  How you help develop the leadership skills in your younger children as well while tamping a bit of the bossiness in the oldest?  On the other hand younger children are often characterized as dreamers or ‘spacey’ -  not really knowing what is going on.  Can you help your youngest children by giving them a greater awareness of what is going on around them?

First and last born children both have some wonderful characteristics.  By being more aware of the way we naturally parent each child differently, maybe we can intentionally & thoughtfully work to influence which attributes dominate in the kaleidoscope of characteristics that make up our child’s unique person.

Thanks for reading - I wrote this just for you! Part Two coming soon on Sibling Influences...

If you are intrigued by birth order some great starting places are:

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