Today we were again enjoying the wonderful spring weather and spending time in our garden. (Sorry, translation: my husband spent all day doing his “household chores” (AKA gardening), whilst I spent all day doing my “household chores” (AKA household chores) whilst simultaneously looking after our four children. I digress.)
I was watching my third child, 2 year old Maya, sitting kickerless in the middle of one of the flowerbeds, devoid of shoes, snot running down her nose, sampling the delights of plants and bugs as if she were dining in a Michelin star restaurant. What was interesting to me however, was not her behaviour (a friend of ours once called her feral), but my distinct lack of care for her behaviour. If this was my first child I probably would’ve had him chaperoned around the garden like an errant gnome, thwarting any attempts at exploration that wasn’t deemed clean and safe. Yet with Maya I was just happy that she was entertaining herself and not making any demands on my time or attention. However, it got me thinking about the birth order, as hypothesised by Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler.
Adler claims in his book The Birth Order that when a child is born deeply impacts their personality. The claims that eldest children are usually socially dominant, intellectual, and extremely conscientious. They can also be less open to new ideas and prone to perfectionism and people pleasing which, could be the result of losing both parents’ undivided attention at an early age, and working throughout their lives to get it back.
Middle children, sandwiched between older and younger siblings, often develop a competitive nature – making them natural entrepreneurs later in life. They tend to be the most diplomatic and flexible members of the family and often, eager for parental praise, develop musical or academic gifts.
Youngest children, according to birth order theory, tend to be dependent and selfish as they’re used to others providing for them. But despite the negatives, they’re also quite often the life of the party – fun, confident, and comfortable entertaining others.
I’ve heard many parents say that they don’t know why their kids are so different as they parented them in exactly the same way. But is this possible in reality? My own experience of being a mother is that I was more fearful when Corey was born probably due to inexperience and lack of knowledge. By the time Maya came along I found that I simply didn’t have the time to watch her as closely as her elder siblings which for her sake, is probably a good thing.
It is my experience that children who are allowed to explore their environment safely and interact with nature and cause and effect, develop a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them. Children who learn that something is “hot” by touching it and hearing the word “hot” at the same time, understand inductively the meaning of the word. They have no reason to be afraid of hot, as they have no previous experience of it.
As parents we want to protect our children yet it is this desire to protect, that can stifle their learning and inhibit their experience of themselves. Would you not rather be slightly uncomfortable for a second whilst touching something hot, over someone explaining to you what hot was but never allowing you to experience it? Is that not called living?