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Should You Parent Differently Based on Birth Order?

Should You Parent Differently Based on Birth Order?

By Jennifer Chung,

How many times have you heard someone say that their two children are completely different?  Experts believe that birth order is closely linked to everything from general temperament, to career preferences, to the way children make friends.  And while kids are certainly born with unique personalities, the way we parent them can definitely shape, refine and reinforce that personality.  So, should we parent differently based on birth order?

The Basics of Birth Order. Here’s some background on birth order. The first born is often the product of more hands-on, inexperienced parents, which means they’ve had their fair share of attention from parents (who might be somewhat protective and/or anxious).  First born children often strive to be reliable and view themselves as the caretaker for the family.

As other children come into the picture, things can change – the first born may feel displaced and seek approval by being a perfectionist and high achiever.  And with each subsequent child, parents tend to become more confident and relaxed, which can result in siblings that are bit more laid back.

Middle children are known as the mediators of the family.  They are focused on fairness and keeping the peace.  And youngest children tend to be social butterflies – they typically benefit from lenient parents and use that extra rope to make friends, socialize, and be the life of the party.

And, of course, only children, children with large age gaps between them, blended families, and multiples all take on a unique set of roles in a family.  Being aware of the dynamics between siblings and parents in each of these roles can certainly inform the way you raise each child.

Birth Order & Parenting.  There certainly isn’t a recipe for parenting based on birth order, but understanding common personality traits can help you understand your child’s point of view and provide some important context.  For example, an oldest child might feel responsible for his/her siblings, so you may want to focus on how to alleviate that anxiety.  Family conflict can be especially stressful for middle children, who often feel like they have to play peacemaker – being aware of this may influence how you communicate.  And youngest children often get treated like the baby of the family, which can trigger jealousy from other siblings.

It’s helpful to have guiding principles and consistent rules for your whole family – but keeping birth order in mind can help you tailor your communication style for each child.




About Jennifer Chung & Kinsights:
Jennifer Chung is a parenting expert and co-founder of part parenting community, part online health record. Kinsights provides parents with a safe place to seek answers to their questions while also helping them track their child’s health information. Organize your child’s growth and developmental milestones, immunizations, medications, allergies, and more.  Connect with Kinsights at to learn more and sign-up! You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter (@kinsights).