Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Birth order and personality…

I just finished Kevin Leman’s The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are. Leman is a psychologist who has also written Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours and What a Difference a Daddy Makes. It was an interesting read and, as usual, Leman has some very timely and practical ideas to share. He starts off the book by listing three sets of personality traits, asking the reader to pick which set they relate to the best. The sets are:
a) perfectionist, reliable, conscientious, list maker, well organized, critical, serious, scholarly. b) Mediator, fewest pictures in the family photo album, avoids conflict, independent, extreme loyalty to the peer group, many friends, a maverick. c) Manipulative, charming, blames others, shows off, people person, good salesperson, precocious, engaging.
As a general rule, firstborn children fall into category (a), middle born into (b), and last born (baby of the family) into category (c). Leman is clear to indicate that this process of analyzing a person’s personality, based on their birth order, is also influenced by external factors such as age separation between siblings (e.g., a second child, born 5 or more years after the first born, may take on the characteristics of a first born), gender variations between the last born and his / her older siblings (i.e., a last born boy with all older sisters may have different characteristics than a last born boy with all older brothers), etc. He spends time explaining the characteristics of the various birth order categories, indicating the strengths and weaknesses of each. Midway through the book he then addresses how birth order characteristics affect marriages (e.g., how two first borns can end up fighting). Lastly, he finishes off the book by discussing how birth order characteristics should influence parenting skills. For all the psycho-analysis, though, Leman’s closing paragraph pretty much sums up one of the best ways to genuinely affect your children’s lives for the better:
I believe the time we really look big in a child’s eyes is when we go to them to apologize for our mistakes, not theirs. I believe the words no parent can do without are I was wrong. Will you forgive me? - (emphasis in original)

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