Blog 37. The Family:Find Out How Your Birth Order Can Affect Your Personal And Business Relationships.
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Are you aware that your birth order, whether you are the first born, second born etc, has an impact on your personal and your business relationships?
We learn very early on, what role we are expected to play within our families. Each role consists of various responsibilities that are usually unconscious and which over time, become totally ingrained within our very being.
The order of our birth and the roles we learn to play as children, become the foundation which we spring from as adults.
Often these roles become such a part of who we are, that we’re not always aware of their significance. Also, because they are entrenched within our psyche, we don’t often realise just how much we use these roles in our relationships, or even in the workplace.
Although there has been much scientific research with regards this vast subject, generally speaking, the different sibling birth orders can be broken down into certain ‘personality types’.
But, the sex of children and the amount of siblings or the size of a family can create big variables to these varying personality roles.
I will give you examples from these generalisations to show you how roles are developed and then utilised. This will help you gain a better insight into your own roles – how your roles developed and how you use them. You may of course have many examples of your own too:
The Eldest Child
The eldest child is normally experienced as being the responsible achiever.
What is sometimes forgotten is that the eldest child remains an only child until a sibling is born. They may therefore receive their parent’s full attention, for quite some time, before the next child is born.
Consequently, studies show that the eldest usually achieves and earns more than their siblings. This is due to the extra attention they might have had.
For some eldest children, to then find themselves with a brother or sister and then having to compete with them for parental attention, can be very hard. This can create a lot of friction between siblings that can continue right into adulthood.
Sharing and competition may become issues, which an eldest child might find very hard to overcome and this can affect their personal and business relationships.
On the other hand, the next sibling/s would never experience the full attention of their parents, and as more siblings are born, parental attention would have to be shared by all.
With regards eldest children, studies show that they are known to be responsible and reliable, especially if they were expected to care for their younger siblings. This also makes them good caregivers or carers.
Eldest children also realise that it is expected of them to show an example to the others siblings. So they learn early on, to behave ‘correctly’ or in a manner acceptable to their family. This is the beginning of the perfectionism many eldest children are known for.
As children they still require the love and attention from their mummy or daddy. And being good and doing what they are told, usually pleases a parent. Once it’s understood that good behaviour gets rewarded, this in turn reinforces the eldest child’s role to be the responsible perfectionist.
Eldest children can consequently also be considered as controlling even bossy, yet they do make good leaders. They naturally understand how to lead and they usually have discipline and masses of tenacity.
They are achievers, they are conscientious and they are often considered an asset not only to society but in the boardroom too.
Unfortunately, eldest children can also experience all the parent’s parental mistakes and often they get the full blast of their parent’s discipline and strictness. Statistics have shown that parents relax their discipline with each child and so what the eldest could never get away with, the baby of the family can. So this can make it very hard for the eldest who may feel that life can be rather unfair at times.
Basically it’s not easy being the responsible oldest child as there are many demands made, but this could be the making of a talented leader.
These are a few examples to help you understand how birth order personalities can affect adult relationships.
Now lets take a look at middle children:
The Middle Child
I repeat, compared to the eldest child, the next sibling or middle child will never experience the full attention of their parents, and as more siblings are born, parental attention would have to be shared by all.
This is usually why middle children never expect much or any attention to be paid to them. They are used to being somewhere in the background, with their eldest or youngest being in the foreground.
So if middle children do get attention, it often comes as a surprise.
Unfortunately, this can cause self-worth issues. Middle children can sometimes feel invisible and unappreciated. Consequently, they often give masses of their time to others, hoping to be loved and seen for who they are.
This can come at a price.
Sometimes they can be seen as doormats and some may see this as an opportunity to take advantage of the ‘people pleasing’ aspect of middle children.
Being the middle child can be hard and they can swing from trying to emulate the roles of their siblings. But when this doesn’t work, they can land up feeling very confused.
It’s not however all bad for middle children. They can be very loyal and supportive and usually they have a large entourage of friends. They can therefore be very good networkers.
Also, by being ‘in-between’, middle children often develop a great insight and skill with regards to negotiation and peacemaking. This can be very useful in business. They can also be great communicators as a result and they can be valuable all-rounders to have on board.
These are but a few examples to get you thinking about the middle child and how this role might effect you.
Now lets move on to the youngest child:
The Youngest Child
In this category the youngest child is always considered spoilt and this is of course not always the case.
In some cases this is true.
As I wrote earlier, statistics have shown that parents do relax their discipline with each child and so what the eldest could never get away with, the baby of the family can.
The baby learns very early on that to get attention – all they need to do is act helpless and needy.
Although the youngest children can be natural charmers, outgoing and sociable, they also know just how to wrap you around their finger – that is, if you’re gullible enough.
They usually know exactly how to manipulate situations in order to get their own way. This can be both positive and negative.
Unfortunately, the negative aspect can be rather annoying especially if it’s experienced in certain group situations or at the office.
It is well known that most group dynamics have what is called, ‘the baby of the group’. Invariably the baby of the group is easy to spot.
In ‘normal’ situations everybody within a group dynamic understands that equal time should be allotted to everyone involved. Usually people are aware that they cannot just take over the group and get extra attention.
This never seems to apply to the baby of the group.
This is why the ‘baby’ is so easy to spot. The baby is usually the attention seeker, taking up all the time with long questions or arguments.
This can leave many members annoyed as they may have missed their opportunity to either speak or ask questions and so on.
Unfortunately, every group and every office usually has a ‘baby’. They can either be a damn nuisance or they can actually be fantastic and entertaining.
This brings me to the only child:
The Only Child
Throughout history, only children were relatively uncommon until recently. And as you know, from 1979 to 2015, the one child policy in mainland China restricted most parents to having only one child.
The only child is however usually labeled as a spoilt brat.
In China this was often the case as all the attention from the whole family was focused on the only child, hence the term – the Little Emperor Syndrome.
In the West however, this label is becoming a myth.
Only children are growing in number, as certain families cannot afford to have more than one child.
These days because both parents usually work, a child can be sent to nursery and early childcare can help prevent the child from being spoilt.
The only child is also exposed to adult company too and therefore they’re usually mature far quicker than other children.
The big difference between an only child and a child with siblings is that, if an only child wants something, in their world the answer boils down to either a yes or a no.
They never grow up feeling that their sibling always got what they wanted or that they had to share or stand back for a brother or sister, and so on. They never have to share a toy or their parent’s love. Consequently, only children never experience sibling jealousy or sibling competition.
An only child therefore has no idea what jealousy means and the experience can be quite shocking when and if they do experience it, later on in life.
What they also can find hard is the inability to negotiate, especially in group settings. So they can be rather rigid in their thinking. Only children never learn flexibility or to fight for a toy and so on, except of course at school, but even then they are often less aggressive than children with siblings.
An only child also learns early on in life, that if they want company they have to find and make their own friends so to counter balance the lack of sibling support.
This can be helpful later on in life, as only children know that friendships are something you work hard at, especially if you wish to retain people long term.
Then as only children reach adulthood, many mirror their childhood role. Most only children choose positions that are more solitary and they can either choose to work from home or on their own. If they do start companies, then as the boss they would still hold independent ‘lonely at the top’ roles.
Only children (similar to the eldest child) can be high achievers. Similar to the eldest children this could relate to their having had good parental attention.
Some statistics show that only-children do better in school, are more motivated, have higher self-esteem, and are even more gifted socially than children with siblings.
This can stand them in good stead especially if they go on to run and manage their own businesses and projects.
Get To Know And Understand The Roles You Play:
Earlier I wrote that the roles we assume in our families are usually entirely unconscious and totally ingrained into our psyche.
You may not have realised that your choice of career is influenced by what you experienced in your family, both with regards your career choice and the role you have chosen to operate from at work.
In other words, the role or career that you choose as an adult is directly affected by the role you played out in your family. It’s what is safe and it’s what you know.
The role you play in your relationships is also directly affected by the role you played in your family. Why wouldn’t it be? You don’t suddenly change when you reach adulthood. Adulthood is a natural progression from childhood.
What I would encourage is that you take a careful look at the roles that you play both in your careers and in your relationships. If for whatever reason they are getting in the way of you moving forward, then you might want to ‘change or shift’ your role so that it begins to work for you and not against you.
Throughout my work I urge you to ‘know yourself’. This is how you grow and this will help you make better choices to suit your relationship and career goals.
Understanding the roles you played in your family and consequent roles that you play out in your adult life will help you understand yourself better.
This is why throughout my work, I urge you ‘to watch yourself like a hawk’.
It is only until you understand who you are and why you are as you are, that you will be able to create the necessary life shifts that will boost your confidence and self worth.
So what stopping you?
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I would be interested in your thoughts on multiple births, twins, triplets etc and the impact of being a girl vs boy in our society.
Thank you Melody for your compliments. Unfortunately, this is not my area of expertise and it¡s certainly an area that needs a lot more research. Perhaps you could add a few insights having been a twin yourself.
I read another blog of yours about fathers and daughters. My “father” walked out on my Mother while she was still in the hospital after my birth (I have a brother 15 months older than I by him as well). I did not meet my “father” until I sought him out when I was 17. My Mom had two more children out of wedlock after me.
I always felt something must be “wrong” with me for my father to do that (I don’t anymore, but I carried that for years). When I was seven, my mom started sending me out in our neighborhoods to ask for canned goods or money. If I didn’t “do well” it was clear we all could not eat. By the age of ten, I was expected to babysit for money. I often was made to miss school to help support the family.
Needless to say, I am very much a people pleaser. I’ve seen my younger siblings thrive and they really aren’t aware of what i went through. I did, in my twenties, put myself through a two year college and had a good career as a Paralegal. Then Mom got dementia, and of course, it fell upon me for her six year care. It was heartbreaking; she passed five months ago.
Mom definitely expected very much from me, and I’ve often wondered if she harbored a resentment for my father leaving or if, as she often said, I was “a strong girl” and my brothers had different “roles” to succeed, etc. Very long way to basically say I DO believe middle children can get “lost” if not careful.