Episode 10: Siblings and Birth Order

Mar 27, 2023

Hey everyone! Welcome back to Elevate Motherhood! This is an episode I’ve had in the works for a while and I’m excited to share it with you guys! We are going to explore sibling relationships first, and then we will also talk about birth order. Related topics although different!


The idea of siblings is so interesting to me! I am very close to my siblings and I pray that my kids will be have a great relationship with each other, too. I am sure ALL parents want their kids to like each other and be friends and get along.

I wont speak as an expert here on raising siblings because I don’t know the answers honestly. I took a poll on my Instagram a while ago, and 100% of you said you think parenting affects sibling relationships. But I know there are tons of us who know families where the parents tried and were amazing parents and the siblings have had times of not getting along or being close. Even if NOW is one of those times, we don’t have to believe that will be the case forever. We can always pray that siblings want the best for each other and consider each other important parts of their lives.


If we truly view each person in our family as special and dearly loved, we will naturally help our kids view their siblings this way. Which I know you already do think each person in your family is special and dearly loved, so you ARE helping your kids view their siblings this way. We can’t control everything, we are raising independent human beings, and I’m not assuming that what we do will exactly determine if our kids remain close throughout their lives. I’ll repeat it again for people like me- we are not in control here. God is. These children are God’s and he loves them. But siblings who like, respect, and enjoy each other does seem like something God would want, and I think it’s good for us to pray and ask God for it, and believe that it will happen! It’s never too late for siblings to become friends, even if they are already adults with their own families!


And a disclaimer before I give examples because I know there are 1000 opinions on everything parenting. I know some people say don’t force your kid to apologize. Some people say you should force your kid apologize. A million things like that. I’m not a parenting expert. I’m just sharing what I know as a regular mom friend or big sister. Take what you like and forget the rest!


One phrase I have learned to use and I mentioned this in Episode 4 and the phrase is “she’s still learning” or “he’s still learning.” This phrase serves as a diffuser for many situations. If the baby grabs his face, “Gentle hands! Sorry Bubby, Sister is still learning to use gentle hands! Let's show her what to do.” This kind of diffuses it and makes things less of a personal attack.


I also like to say things like, "You make her smile so big! She loves watching you! Since you’re older, you’ll be a leader in a lot of ways, she will learn so much by watching you!" I still say those things now that they are 2 and 4 but I really started that as soon as my daughter was born.


I also try to encourage my kids to help each other. If there is a time when my daughter is trying to reach something and asking me for help, but it’s something her brother can reach, I’ll ask him to go help his sister. Then I say “Thank you so much for helping her!” Sissy, say thanks for helping me!” Or if I’m handing out a snack, I’ll give both to my daughter and ask her to hand one to her brother. Then I’d say “That’s so kind of you to share and give one to your brother! Doesn’t it feel great to share and help other people!”…. Bubby, your sister loves helping me take care of you! Can you tell her thank you?” So, not putting too much pressure on the older sibling to full take care of his sister or to do things he doesn’t want to do necessarily, but usually he feels special when I ask him to help her. And I do the same for her too even though she’s younger, she helps him a lot too!


Another parenting tip I’ve heard in regards to siblings is to keep them on the same team if you start a competition. Instead of putting them against each other- "Who can get their PJs on first!?" Keep them on the same team- "Can both kids get their PJs on before I count to 30? Go!" Then they may end up helping each other and celebrating their wins together.


I feel like this is pretty widely-accepted advice that I’ve heard from several different parenting experts, but they say not to compare your kids to each other, especially saying it to them. For example, “Your brother always helps clean up, you never do!” And you know I would hopefully never say something like that because that’s not “speaking life” to say “you never do... XYZ.” We try to always phrase things in a positive way and speak out the things that are kids ARE and the things we are praying that they will be. Check out Episode #6 For more on that topic!


Looking back on my own childhood, one thing my parents did which I think helped foster my relationships with my siblings then and now is to do things together as a family like even watch each other play their sports. My brother did competitive soccer and had tons of practices and games. We didn’t make it to EVERYTHING as a family, sometimes we split up boys and girls, but we did a LOT together. I have TONS of memories sitting at soccer fields watching my brother or going to his soccer team parties or tournaments. I knew the sisters of the other players on the team. I knew their parents. My brother and dad still came to our dance recitals. I remember my parents letting my brother wear headphones and a Gameboy, (or one of those devices before tablets and iPads) and he would play games quietly in the audience until it was time for me or my sister to be on stage then they would nudge him and he’d pay attention to our dances. I am sure it would have been easier to leave my brother home when he was a preteen and didn’t care about his sisters dances. I’m sure it would have been easier to leave me and my sister with family or baby sitters at home instead of chasing us around the soccer fields or trying to keep us cool and dry in the extreme weather. But I do think it helped us see value in our siblings and celebrating their hard work. Even now, frequently our conversations will be something like- Hey I ran into your old soccer teammate the other day! Small world!


I plan to expand on this topic in a future episode, but I want to interview more moms and get input from more people. So if you have something you’d like to add to the conversation of sibling relationships- send me an email at [email protected]. You can also “nominate” a mom who you think can speak from her own experience and share with other moms listening.


Now on the subject of birth order.

What I’m about to say was one of the best, most freeing things anyone told me when I had my second child.


 She said…


God graces each child for their birth order. You don’t have to worry about giving your second child every bit of attention that the first child got. God graced her for being the second. She will have some benefits that the firstborn never got. Maybe he needed the extra time and attention because of God’s calling on his life and maybe she needs a bit more freedom and flexibility because of God’s calling on her life. It doesn’t have to be EQUAL to be fair. You can love each kid just as much even if that looks different for each child.

WOW RIGHT? I hope that makes you feel better and takes some of the mom guilt off. Let it GO. God put your children in the right birth order for your family.


You may have held your firstborn in a quiet dark room for every nap for a year but now you just had your 3rd baby and you have 2 other young children who need you, and THAT’S OKAY. That 3rd baby is going to get so many other perks in their lives from YOU that you can let it go that they don’t get the same nap situation as the first born. It’s okay.,


So I want to somewhat briefly go through the “Stereotypes” of each place in the birth order. This is not a box to put them in, this is not all-encompassing, if you listen and think- this doesn’t really fit me or my child- that’s fine. This is just some insight and generalizations of each birth position and it might help you understand some things about your children in a new way, and maybe you will be better equipped to understand certain situations and parent each child in the best way for them.


So the Birth order theory originated with a man named Alfred Adler in the 20th century . He developed this theory that the order in which a child is born shapes their development and personality. He also claimed family, community, and social aspects play a major role in shaping a child’s personality. Of course every family is different but today we will talk about some common similarities. Of 5 different birth positions = firstborn, second-born, middle, last, and only children.

I’m also pulling some of this information from Dr Kevin Lehman who wrote a book called- The Birth Order Book: Why You are the Way You Are.


First born- the oldest. Parents are usually extremely attentive and more strict, following things by the book, this in turn causes the first born to become perfectionistic, trying to please their parents. They are often reliable, high-achievers, controlling, more cautious than their siblings. Parents spend more time reading and explaining things to firstborns and that may be part of the reason firstborns usually outperform their siblings. Parents expect firstborns to set an example, have more responsibility like taking care of siblings and household chores, and in general first borns can be quick to take charge in groups. Generally speaking – first borns have a fear of failure, so they are less likely to take risks than their siblings. First borns are likely to seek praise and recognition because they were usually given that in their younger years.


Second born- these children begin their lives with their parents’ attention focused onnn the first born. They are more likely to be competitive and independent. Second born children often tend to develop abilities that the first born doesn’t have in attempts to get attention.


Middle Child- parents are a little less attentive and less strict when parenting the middle child. Stereotypes are that the middle child often feels left out, aware that the oldest and youngest usually get more attention. They don’t have the rights and responsibilities of the oldest or the privileges of the youngest. They are more likely to be people-pleasers, somewhat rebellious, and actually not as competitive- more likely to be peacemakers, negotiators. They are more likely to be social and focus on friendships outside of the house and be less attached to their family than their siblings.


Youngest child- parents are increasingly relaxed in their parenting. The youngest gets more attention than the second or middle children because the older siblings are more independent. The babies of the family are usually fun-loving, charming, attention-seeking, outgoing, and may be manipulative. Many famous actors and actresses and comedians are the babies of their families. The youngest child may be more likely to take risks than their siblings and may have unrealistic goals. Parents are least likely to discipline the youngest child.


Only child- The only child receive the most attention from both of their parents, have more interactions with adults, becomes an extreme version of a first born, more likely to be confident, mature for their age, perfectionist, may have a harder time cooperating with others or handling not getting their way. Only children are usually responsible, and seek approval.


There are lots of factors affecting birth order personality which can be looked at in depth- factors like blended families and step families, wide gaps in sibling ages, a sibling with physical or neurodevelopmental disabilities, twins,  genders of siblings, adoption. I recommend the book called “The Birth Order Book” by Kevin Lehman. He goes into a lot more detail on all of these categories. He’s a psychologist and a Christian so I’m more apt to trust his reference points, and he has written several books that I have read and loved.


There are some tips for parenting each of your own children according to their specific birth order and needs so I’ll talk about those! Some of these tips were from articles I found on theeverymom.com and imom.com.


Tips for parenting your firstborn child: we should give firstborn children permission and freedom to have fun and relax. And realize that the first born may feel jealous of their younger siblings receiving attention for just being little as opposed to achieving things. We can remind our firstborn children that they are loved for who they are, not only what they achieve. We can keep our expectations that the firstborn is still a child, not a mini-adult.  


Tips for parenting a middle child: make time for one-on-one interactions or even two-on-one interactions and give them attention from both parents, carefully notice their personality, strengths, talents. Special moments are key to meeting their need for feeling safe and loved. Realize that middle children have a strong sense of justice and can feel frustrated when something isn’t what they consider to be fair. We can be sure to let the middle child have a voice and pick restaurants or movies for the family sometimes too.

Tips for parenting youngest children: give boundaries just as much as with the other children while still encouraging their carefree personality. Give responsibilities and hold them accountable. Be aware that youngest children are more likely to get their way and try to balance that dynamic.

Tips for parenting only children: provide relaxed playtime at home and with their friends.


I found an article that relates how your birth order as the parent plays into your parenTING approach, the psychotherapist they consulted is named Niro Feliciano.


Parents who are firstborns themselves are likely to have high expectations projected onto their children especially their firstborn. They are likely to over-identify with their first born child. The firstborn parents are also most likely to be anxious and thrown off by the unpredictability of children and schedules. 


Parents who are the middleborn from their family tend to aim for fairness among their children. They are more relaxed as parents, and since they may have been more likely left out as a child, they are sensitive to make sure all their children feel included. One article from the Huffington Post cautioned that when parents are overly concerned with fairness, it actually spurs competition among children. Middleborn parents are more likely to stick up for their own middle child or the child who is the underdog.


Parents who are the youngest born child are more likely to encourage and allow adventure in their own children. They may be playful and enjoy the silliness of childhood. They trust their intuition more than worrying about what other people think or expect from their parenting, and are more comfortable with chaos than older sibling parents. The youngest child as a parent is more likely to take up for their own youngest child and understand some of their excuses with a softer approach.


Now it’s time for this week’s mom hack! The mom hack this week is to get your kid to eat vegetables in the form of a smoothie! I feel like I have the magic formula DOWN in a way that my kids actually drink it so I wanted to share it. Here's the recipe! 



Thanks for being here, friends! Until next time! Let’s elevate motherhood.



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