Family Melodrama and Histrionics, Part II
The Influences of the Family-The Tangled Web Families Weave
There are parents who have personalities differences with their children. The reasons vary from innate differences in their respective, innate psychological personalities which I have discussed previously. Another reasons for the parent-child personality confrontation is the issue of birth order dynamics.
Birth order is indeed quite influential in what type a person a child becomes. A child's place within his/her family constellation is often determinant in how he/she is raised and treated by his/her parents and siblings alike. He/she, based upon the ordinal family position, is either the responsible/burdened oldest child, the independent/imaginative only child, the overlooked/anonymous middle child, and/or the indulged/adored youngest child. Each birth order has its expectations regarding how a person behaves and reacts. Parents often treat their children either differentially and/or preferentially based upon their respective child's birth order.
Parents sometimes have personality clashes with their children if they are of the same and/or similar birth order because those parents often see in their same birth order children aspects of their own personalities which they do not like. For example, a renowned triple threat celebrity who is the oldest in her family remarked that from the time she was twelve until she was married, she had clashes with her mother, who was also the oldest in her family because of their headstrong personalities and fierce independence ways. She further relayed that her teenaged years were the MOST difficult with her mother. She asserted that there were always disagreements with her mother in one way or other!
I, an only child, had periodic clashes with my mother, who was the oldest in her family. My father, next to the youngest in his family, would remark that our personalities are so similar, adding that we were both strong women who refused to back down in an argument. My mother and I, both having firstborn personalities and wanting to be on FIRST, had quite fierce disagreements, especially during my teenage years.
Then there are parents who have personality differences with children who are of different birth orders. Maybe there is a father, who is the middle of his family and has mastered the art of compromise, wondering why his oldest child, a son, is always bossy and domineering with his younger siblings, insisting that his way is the only correct way. Another example, is a mother, who is the oldest in her family and is always responsible for herself and others, being perplexed about her youngest child, her daughter, being totally blase and lackadaisical about her future.
There are parents who have mastered the art of comparisons. They feel that their children are "lacking" and "not enough" in one area or another. These parents often view another child or children "role models", believing that their child/children should be more like them. These parents often view the other children as so much "more"- more beautiful, intelligent, talented, successful, mature, responsible, personality, and/or other variables.
These parents often do not appreciate their children for what is uniquely theirs. These parents wish for their children to be "better" thus more pleasing to them. In essence, these parents want to mold their children into a more befitting image to that of the parent. However, it would be better for the child if the parent concentrate on optimizing their child's unique persona and characteristics instead of constantly deriding them. These parents would be doing their children a great service by capitalizing on their children's individual assets and optimizing them.
Parents usually treat their children either preferentially and/or differentially based upon their respective birth order status. In any family where there is more than one child, parents tend to treat their children either differentially and/or preferentially. Although many parents are loathe to acknowledge this, it is an unmentionable fact in family life.
Oldest children in families tend to be treated the harshest and punished more by their parents. Throughout their lives, oldest children, even at young ages, are held to a more stringent standard than their younger siblings at similar ages. Oldest children, especially in large to very large families, often have the shortest childhoods and are expected to assume familial responsibilities as soon as they are able to do so.
It is the oldest child in a family who often MUST sacrifice their childhood and adolescence to look after their younger siblings. In the lives of many oldest children, particularly in large to very large families, there is no such thing as indulging in normal childhood and adolescent activities. I listened to some of my maternal relatives, associates, and friends who were oldest children complaining and bemoaning the fact that they had NO childhood and adolescence because they had to be the in locos parentis to their younger siblings.
In the average large to very large family, the oldest child is the parentified child. They are assuming parental duties at a time when they should be experience childhood. Many of such children assume parenting duties from early childhood. This result of many oldest children actually resenting their younger siblings because they had it so much easier than they did. There are many more who resented their parents for having more children than what could be actually cared for.
While oldest children in large to very large families have more of the negative aspects of being the oldest child, it is not so for oldest children in small to medium sized families. Oldest children in such families do assume responsible and adviser positions but they are usually not compelled to look after and raise their younger siblings. They do have a normal childhood and adolescence.
Many oldest children, even in adulthood, feel that they are the family's shoulder to stand on. They remarked that they are always the go-to person although their younger siblings are quite capable of handling their own affairs. There are many oldest children who live their own childhoods and adolescence as adults because they did not have one when they were younger.
Parents must realize that their oldest children, albeit being responsible, are also children. They, too, need attention, love, and affection from their parents. Even though they are the oldest, they should be allowed to have a somewhat carefree childhood and adolescence to explore and just be themselves.
Middle children in families are often overlooked and unfavored. They are also considered appendages of the oldest and younger siblings in the family. Seldom are they acknowledged and appreciated for who they actually are. They are just considered anonymous personas non gratas.
Middle children often feel sandwiched in between the oldest and younger siblings. They are not often lionized like their older siblings nor coddled like their younger siblings. They are just- THERE! Because they are "in between", they have learned the art of compromise and being the family everyperson. Many middle children have used their position to be the jack of all trades.
In medium sized families, the middle child is often in the background but he/she is somewhat noticed. However, in large to very large families, the status of the middle child in the family is often a precarious and nebulous one. Many middle children just simply fade into the background, being the silent and anonymous one because it is safer to be unobtrusive as no one is going to notice them anyway. However, there are others who decide to make their voices heard, becoming quite assertive in their individual personhood.
Many middle children are the unsung heroes and the backbone in their families. They are often the peacemakers between siblings. They are often unappreciated for the unique persons that they are.
Many middle children often go their own independent way, creating quite a niche for themselves because they felt that they were unsupported and ignored by their respective families. Others continue with their family drama and script, revelling in being anonymous and nondescript rather than to do something positive with their own lives. They actually prefer to live and be in a proverbial purgatory, always wishing for what could have been.
Parents, your middle children are something special. Spend some time with your middle child. Arrange a playdate with your middle child. Take him/her to a museum, movie, and/or any place he/she is interested in. For fifteen to twenty minutes daily, spend some alone time with him/her at home, just having a natural blast! Your middle child will greatly appreciate this!
The youngest child is often the most adored and pampered child in the family. The youngest child is the last child in the family. Because of this, they are usually sheltered and kept a child longer than the other birth orders in the family. They are usually the favorite child in the family because of their ordinal status.
They are treated the most preferentially by their parents and sometimes siblings. Oftentimes, older siblings usually have a love-hate relationship with their youngest sibling. They are either protective of their youngest sibling or view him/her as an intrusive, manipulative nuisance. Many other siblings actually view their youngest siblings as that odious word-brat!
One celebrity and Holocaust survivor, the youngest of sixteen children, stated that he was a brat! Youngest children in the family have the BEST of all worlds. They usually assume familial responsibilities at a later age than their older siblings who usually had to assume such responsibilities at earlier ages. For example, there was a family of 9 children that I knew. While the oldest child started assuming familial responsibilities at 5 years of age, the youngest, now 34 years of age, NEVER assumed any type of responsibility whatsoever. In essence, everything was done for her!
Youngest children in small to medium-sized families are on a somewhat equal par with their older siblings. An actor, who is the youngest in his family, remarked how his parents treated him and his oldest sister equally, giving them responsibilities at the respective same ages and punishing them equally if they did something wrong. In small to medium-sized families, the youngest child is not mollycoddled and is expected to pull his/her weight proverbially. It is in large to very large families where the youngest child is mollycoddled and allowed to get away with murder.
Many youngest children often elect to remain in the baby role for the rest of their lives because it is easier than to assume responsibilities and actually become a responsible and mature adult. They prefer to meander through life, being passive and having others take care of them as their parents and siblings have done during the formative years of their lives. In essence, they want to be taken care of.
Many youngest children often feel that they are invalidated and not taken seriously because of their ordinal position in their families. It is a constant uphill struggle for them to prove to their families and to the world that they are competent and intelligent adults who deserve to be taken seriously and respected. Although many youngest children have demonstrated themselves to be quite competent and successful, they are still varied as "little baby" of the family.
Parents must teach the youngest child to assume his/her share of the familial responsibilities. No child is ever too young to learn how to be responsible. Yes, your youngest is your precious and your baby but he/she must learn eventually to pull his/her own weight also. Many youngest children do things for which their oldest/older siblings are punished for. That is not fair to the oldest/older siblings and often leave an irreparable rift between them. So if the youngest child does something wrong, HE/SHE, not the OLDEST/OLDER siblings should be punished for it. However, the punishment should be tempered to the youngest child's age. In essence, less mollycoddling of the youngest child and teach him/her more responsibility as you and the older siblings are not going to be around forever to constantly rescue him/her.
© 2012 Grace Marguerite Williams