Our application of the Montessori methodology includes not only a desire for academic achievement, but also a keen interest in the development of the whole child. While we want your child to have an appreciation and respect for others, we are deeply concerned for how your child feels about himself. We know that children are very sensitive to and are influenced by what they think their parents expect of them and how they interpret their parents treatment of them. We also know that all of us parents and teachers want our children to know that we not only love them, but that we value them as individuals. So, how can we be sure our message is delivered to our children so that we can promote the growth of healthy self-esteem within them?
What we know now is that birth order is a major factor in how our children interpret our expectations and treatment of them. We may be sending the same message to all of our children, but they are receiving it differently. First borns tend to get a lot of attention from adults and they have a lot expected of them. Many moms take care to record when the first-born child rolls over, sits up, stands, loses a tooth, walks, talks, etc., but has little record of subsequent children’s similar activities. They want to please their parents and to make their parents proud of them. Second borns may be sent the same message, but perceive it differently. They see their older first-born sibling as the perfect little adult and find that in order to gain their own importance they must find significance in different ways. Sometimes these children try to be the opposite of the first born as a way to define themselves.
Babies enter the family finding the role of charmer available and many times assume it. They see no need to be like the parents and strive for achievement, nor do they need to make their place by being difficult. They already realize that they are special, they are the final baby. They find security in being engaging and affable as everyone in the family fusses over them.
Only children are considered super first borns. Their whole world is surrounded by adults and adults become their peers. It’s challenging for only children to be adults even as children, but they try. Adults accommodate them by accepting everything they do, but the onlies know they aren’t really as good as mom or dad.
So given some of this information, how can we encourage all of our children to become the best they can without feeling that pressure to please or displease us and to ultimately feel good about who they are? We have some advice!
… to be continued
Birth Order- part 2
As parents of first-born children, you can lighten their perceived burden by sharing your own imperfections with them. Avoid redoing their work; don’t straighten the silverware on the table they set. Focus on what they do right and minimize whatever they do wrong. They are already hard enough on themselves. Remember they will feel dethroned at the birth of another child so give them special one-on-one time. Tell them about all the things the newborn can’t do that they can do.
For the second-borns, be aware of their need to be special in their own way. Avoid comparing them to their older siblings. Try to keep up their baby books! Acknowledge their achievements as you have the first borns. Take notice of when they do something for the first time knowing that they can’t be the first child in the family to do things, but they can be noticed when it is their first time.
Try not to rescue the babies. They, too, will need to develop their own independence. By doing for them because they are so cute, little, and charming, you send them the message that they are not capable of doing for themselves. Be sure to assign responsibilites and chores to them and have the same expectations for them as you do for your first borns! It’s difficult for babies to feel responsible for what happens to them.
For those parents of super first borns, the onlies, allow them to be children and to make mistakes and to learn from them. Try not to give them too much but instead let them earn some things. After all, you won’t always be able to provide for them! Invite other children over so that the onlies have opportunities for sharing and compromising! Go out with them on a date of your own. You, the parents, deserve a life of your own, too!
While birth order is not a predicator of future performance, it does help describe children and their behavior. By considering it and learning to recognize the behaviors of each order, we will be better able to encourage the development of our children’s potential. That’s our real goal, for every child in our school to pursue her potential to the fullest.
Director/Elementary 1 Teacher