Monday, 19 January 2015

Power Dynamics of Birth Order

So, I got thinking the other day of the impact of birth order on my current parenting style... Okay, I admit, I am a youngest child. Apparently, this makes me an annoying slacker who might be a little bit stupid. But, as a parent, it also makes me the odd woman out with some of my parenting philosophies. I cringe a bit when my oldest child orders the younger siblings about – something my oldest sibling parent colleagues are proud of. I feel bad when I see my oldest child in a position of supporting siblings, and not being supported himself. I look at birth order and I see where my kids get the raw deal.

The higher in the birth order you are, the less help you can count on from your family community – your parents expect you to role model to all beneath you, and the benefit you get, apparently, is power. There is a fight to maintain a dominant position, because if your younger siblings overtake you, well, it looks like you did something wrong.

The lower in the birth order you are, the more scrutiny you are under – not only do you have your parents, but you also have every older sibling watching you... And, while your parents may have finally started to understand that most oddities are stages and don't require discipline to move out of, that often means your older siblings are invested in making sure you don’t get away with anything they didn’t. And, in terms of power dynamic, not only do your parents have power over you, but you have all your older siblings having power over you too... families can easily become hierarchies where the youngest child effectively is at the bottom of the heap, with no power, no respect, and zero responsibility. The youngest child over and over gets reinforced how little locus of control they have.

Seemingly every youngest child has the experience of learning something new, and having that not really be that great, because someone else in the family “does it better”... And, ultimately, that experience of being the disempowered youngest child was, ultimately, what led me to my current, more democratic style of parenting.

Do you have experiences that led to you considering parenting in a counter culture manner?