Parenting the lastborn of the family is a bit of a challenge. Not a challenge like the firstborn but a totally different challenge wherein parents can be so charmed by the baby of the family they find themselves being manipulated by their entertaining ways and contagious personalities.
I know I ran a pretty tight ship with my firstborn and middle kids. I remember one mom told me I was like a drill sergeant. Hey, whatever works, right? I wasn’t mean or unloving, I just had a strict schedule, stuck to it and managed the family so that things ran efficiently. But, no joke, by the time our baby came into the picture, I no longer had the energy to command my army of four and so a lot of the structure I had provided up until that point, went out the door to some extent.
Dr. Kevin Leman talks about how the baby of the family is an expert at what he calls “the setup”……..
“The setup is a particular skill of the lastborn and involves bugging an older sibling until he or she lashes out in anger, at which point the baby of the family runs screaming to Mommy for protection.”
Our baby, Carsyn, who is almost 13, did (and still does at times) a fantastic job at provoking her older sister, Codi. Once Codi would get good and mad and retaliate, Carsyn would then come to me and tell on her. I usually took Carsyn’s side because she was 5 years younger and of course, I expected more from my older daughter.
The point I’m trying to make here, which reiterates the characteristics of the lastborn I wrote about, is that no matter what the baby of the family is doing….entertaining, provoking, charming, clowning around, or manipulating everyone, the fact is, they are the shit disturbers of the family.
The lastborn’s grief-stricken cries are his/her greatest asset, so here are some ways parents can “help” their lastborn without enabling their woe-as-me behavior:
Homework ~ Parent’s beware: It’s one thing to help your children with their homework but the baby of the family is especially skilled at coercing their parents into doing it for them. Their helplessness is a common act to get what they want which, in this case, is to get out of doing their homework.
I know I’ve had trouble with this and because I am worn out by the end of the day, I find that sometimes it’s just easier doing more on my lastborn’s homework then I should. I’m not doing her any favors by not letting her think for herself. Even tonight, as I made dinner, she saunters up to the kitchen counter with her homework and says, “well, are you gonna help me?” (Where is her older sister when I need her?)
Attitude ~ Lastborn’s can develop quite an attitude toward things if parents do not take the time to give consequences for bad behavior. Again, by the last child, many parents are just way more laid back and not as strict as they were with the older kids and don’t have it in them to call their lastborn’s bluff. And the baby of the family will play each and every member of their family for all it’s worth so the best thing is to make sure they don’t get away with things early on. Parent’s have a hard time believing their little lastborn could lie, manipulate, avoid, connive, and conjure up, which makes parenting the baby a breeding ground for a spoiled rotten brat.
Weak Minded ~ This is the most scary for me personally. I have always felt that my lastborn, Carsyn, was sent straight from Heaven to keep me company while my husband was traveling for business more than he had ever done before. The problem is, because I was so grateful for her sweet self, there were times when I made things too easy for her instead of letting her figure things out on her own. This sort of leniency tends to stunt the emotional and intellectual growth of the child. “When a parent babies a child too much, the parent actually renders that child useless.”
It’s like the story of the caterpillar. The caterpillar needs time to build it’s muscles and grow as it makes its way out of the cocoon and into the world as a butterfly. But if someone comes along and sees it struggling and helps it out by opening the cocoon for it, we deprive the new butterfly of the strength and maturity it needs to be a functioning adult insect.
Gullible ~ The lastborn does not handle information well. Birth Order experts agree that because the older siblings usually are so influential when sharing information with the baby of the family….even if the information is wrong, the lastborn will think that the information is correct. After all, it is the all-knowing big brother telling his little brother to light those firecrackers in the mailbox and the lastborn will do it not realizing the trouble they will be in when they get caught. Parents should err on the side of helping the baby of the family when it comes to wether or not they are really being bullied by an older sibling or trying to manipulate a family member.
Attention ~ I have to remind myself that just because I have already attended three other painfully boring talent shows, the one my lastborn will be participating in is just as important. Lastborns already have a feeling of being the least important and parents still need to show them how proud of their accomplishments they are. I have always been a saver of my kids artwork from school. Even my lastborn’s drawings have been a Wordless Wednesday on this blog. Giving them refrigerator space, calendar squares and special attention for their abilities will help them feel important.
*Remember: Lastborn children are constantly doing things to prove their importance in the family. They follow their leaders and they push their buttons. They work hard at doing the least amount of work and yet are perfectly capable of doing their fair share of household tasks. Take them seriously but not too seriously. Give them consequences and give them praise.
**Most Importantly: The lastborn in the family does well to marry a firstborn. So start looking mom and dad, they are the best combination when it comes to wedded, Birth Order, bliss and, believe it or not, the next topic in our Birth Order Series!