Birth order is a fascinating topic. I know a lot of people talk about personality types like A and B but birth order plays a very big role in how people develop their personalities and respond to life.
Over the next few weeks I am going to do a series of posts that reflect the impact of birth order in the family, how it affects our parenting and how it affects our marriages. I will be using my children as guinea pigs (firstborns are always the guinea pig anyway) and my own marriage to discuss the characteristics of birth order and why we are the way we are.
Throughout this series, I will be referring to Dr. Kevin Leman’s book, The Birth Order Book. So without further ado, let me start by explaining who is considered a firstborn:
- The firstborn is the first child born to a set of parents.
- The firstborn is the first of a different sex born to a set of parents. For example, even if you have 19 kids, and the first 18 are boys the baby girl will have firstborn characteristics because she is the firstborn girl in the family.
- The firstborn is a child born to family that already has children but there is a 5 year or more age difference between that child and the one born before him or her. For example, there is a 5 1/2 year difference between my third child and my fourth. Therefore, my fourth child, a daughter is considered to be a “new family” and have firstborn tendencies even though she is the baby.
- Only children are considered “Super” firstborns. They take the firstborn characteristics to the next level of intensity.
Now that we know who the firstborns are, here are 7 characteristics that a firstborn typically demonstrates and examples of what I have seen in my firstborn son, Case.
Well Organized ~ Firstborns are usually well organized and if they’re not, they will tell you that they know where everything is even in the mess they live in.
I’ll never forget the time I went into Case’s room to move some things around to make room for an extra bed for his brother who would be coming home for Christmas break. Case had all his shoes in neat and tidy rows by the wall and I had to move some of them to make room. When he noticed that his well organized shoes had been moved he blew an ever-loving gasket because I had “touched his stuff”. Firstborns do not like surprises especially ones that affect their organized “stuff”.
Strong Willed, Achievers, and Assertive ~ Firstborns are what Dr. Leman calls the “Movers and Shakers”. Compared to another type of firstborn that is more compliant, nurturing and caregiving; the more energetic firstborns are assertive, strong willed, high achievers and hard drivers.
What makes perfect sense to me now is that when Case was in high school, he and I would have some of the most outrageous arguments with all kinds of yelling. Of course, I was the mom, in charge, and therefore I expected him to comply with my rules. But he would negotiate, explain, and drive his point home numerous times to get me to back down and reconsider. And do you know what? I never did because I am a first born too! We would go head to head constantly battling for control because firstborns fight to win. They want their point to be heard and they want it to make a difference.
The Drive to Succeed ~It’s this quality that gives firstborns a real edge in life. The drive to succeed can make them successful on the field, in the workplace and anywhere they put their mind too. For example, Case went through a skateboarding phase when he was about 13 years old. He would go into our basement and practice for hours and hours until he landed his new “trick”. This level of determination is what many firstborns are made of but it does have its downside. Often times in their attempt to perfect something, family, friends and even health can be neglected. They are the ones that become work-a-holics because they have such a deep need to succeed that they have trouble focusing on anything else.
“When the first born, who is a goal-oriented achiever, starts thinking, Winning is everything, he can shove aside values like being law abiding, loyal, or self sacrificing. Instead, he will do anything to win.”
Pressure ~ Firstborns hate to make mistakes. As a result, they put a lot of undo pressure on themselves to perform. “Go big or go home” is an excellent saying to describe Case and I saw this scenario play itself out during his four years, playing Division I college baseball. When he was doing well nothing could stop him but the minute he struck out he was his own worst enemy and often times he was not able to pull himself out of the mentality that he had failed.
Planners ~ As I mentioned earlier, firstborns do not like surprises. Because they are planners, they have a definite need to know ahead of time what is on everyone’s schedule. They love rules and they love to be in control. They are on time and they need to know “what’s happening?” when they walk into a room. That could explain why 64% of our US Presidents have been firstborns, they want to rule the world.
Now that Case is living at home, he asks me every evening what I have on my schedule for the next day and he proceeds to inform me of his…even if I haven’t asked!
Confidence ~ Case is full of confidence and most firstborns are because family and friends take the firstborn child so seriously, they develop earlier and are often fearless.
Perfection ~ Did you ever see the movie Taladega Nights? Ricky Bobby was a perfect example of a firstborn having the desire to succeed and avoid failure at all costs. “If you ain’t first, you’re last” was his mantra as he chased perfection and based his self-worth on his accomplishments.
Would you believe that Case’s 3rd grade teacher told me he was a perfectionist? That was 14 years ago and things have not changed in the least. He has always been an all or nothing kind of guy and he still has a strong sense of right and wrong, is very conscientious, and a natural born leader.
But being a perfectionist is not good. Perfectionists fear failure, and often times procrastinate for fear of failing. And because perfection leaves no room for mistakes, it ads up to a lot of pressure and feelings of inadequacy for the firstborn. Failure is unavoidable in life so it is important for firstborns to give themselves grace to fail and an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Easier said for a firstborn than done.
Of course, not all firstborns develop these characteristics. In fact, a lot has to do with how a firstborn is parented, an only child, or whether they are the first of their particular gender in a family. (I will discuss that in another post).
The bottom line is, firstborns are just that! They are first. They are the ones the parents practice on and the ones parents make their mistakes on.
I would like to ad, for those of you scratching your heads thinking “wow, this sure isn’t me or my kid and we are firstborns!” According to Dr. Leman, certain circumstances can mess up the natural birth order sequence to the point of firstborns acting like middle children, the baby acting like a firstborn, and the whole concept of birth order goes to hell in a hand basket.
There are all kinds of variables that determine birth order and so far we are just scratching the surface. So bare with me as we dig a little deeper and go a little farther into this captivating topic and how it relates to us.