Best of the Web: Does birth order shape personality, and more

Is there any truth to birth order stereotypes, 'teen-ternity' leave for parents, and why your kids are better behaved for other people.

Our selection of thought-provoking and useful resources from around the web on educating and raising children, and supporting families.

Birth order personality stereotypes are 'intuitively sensible', but the evidence is mixed

(Kellie Scott, ABC Everyday)

Speak to anyone who has a sibling about birth order, and generally, they agree that firstborns are responsible overachievers, middle children are peacemakers, and the youngest are spoiled attention-seekers. This article delves into whether there’s any truth to the stereotypes.

The author explores different studies and expert opinions to see if there’s any scientific basis for these stereotypes. Nick Haslam, a professor in psychology at the University of Melbourne, says ‘while decades of research has failed to show any consistent and substantial evidence, there is a “germ of truth” to the stereotypes peddled about birth order and personality traits’.

‘Firstborns are almost always more mature than later-borns,’ says Professor Haslam, adding that is simply because they’re older. ‘And a lot of the birth-order stereotypes are about maturity — being more grown up, inhibited, more conscientious, more able to consider the future and deliberate choices.’

The article also discusses how birth order can influence family relationships, even as adults.

‘Like at Christmas gatherings, older siblings might be responsible for organising things, and the younger ones continue to play the role of being the goof-off.’ But Professor Haslam says that’s not necessarily how they are outside the nuclear family situation, like at work or with their own friends.

Overall, the article suggests that while birth order might have some influence on personality traits and family dynamics, it’s not the be-all and end-all.

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Is ‘teen-ternity’ leave just a new way to make mothers feel guilty?

(Barbara Allen, The Guardian)

The term ‘teen-ternity leave’ refers to the idea of taking time off work — a career break — when your child reaches their teenage years to spend more time with them during this crucial developmental stage.

Discussing the differences between parents of infants and parents of teens, it’s clear that ‘parent support all but vanishes in the teen years. There appear to be no nannies specialising in teen-ternity, as there are for, say, newborns’.

‘Unless you’re blessed (and some are), parental camaraderie can disintegrate, ranks close, and your own “bad parent” paranoia sets in.’

The author also points out that teen-ternity leave may just be another way to make mothers feel guilty. The article also highlights the potential challenges of implementing teen-ternity leave, such as the financial implications and the impact on career progression.

Ultimately, while this may work for some families, the author writes that ‘parents and teenagers deserve a break. It’s all normal. It’s all kicked off before. It will all keep happening forever’.

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Why are my kids good around other people and then badly behaved with me?

(Trevor Mazzucchelli, The Conversation)

Do you pick your child up from school and then find you’re dealing with a meltdown out of nowhere? Or do you get told that they’re polite and well-behaved, yet that’s not the child you experience all of the time?

Behaviour such as this is a common parenting complaint, and in this article, the author delves into the possible reasons behind it. One explanation is that children feel more comfortable expressing their emotions and testing boundaries with their parents because they trust them unconditionally. So, in a way, it’s a sign that they feel safe to let their guard down and show their true selves.

In social settings like school, children are likelier to ‘imitate their peers’ behaviour, particularly if they see it gets results, such as attention from the teacher or access to prized activities’.

They also tend to behave better at school ‘because teachers have very good systems in place. Children are kept busy with a variety of engaging activities, expectations of children’s behaviour are clear, and the payoff for desirable behaviour is reliable’.

The author offers some practical tips for parents dealing with this behaviour, including setting simple house rules, establishing routines and having realistic expectations.

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