Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Only not Lonely

With Thanksgiving nearly on us, it's a good opportunity to bring up sibling topics such as birth order. Heard this one on NPR: How Much Does Birth Order Shape Our Lives? It was a pretty good piece and very interesting, but like much of the other literature on this topic, it completely skips over the "onlies."

I guess only children are thought to be rare enough so that they get left out of the discussion... and it's easier to have the Big Three, first, middle, last. Here's another article: How Birth Order Changes Your Life. 1 - 2 - 3 - done. I think they such assume that onlies are just like firstborns. Not correct.

An entire article from the Sunday Times (UK) mentions only children just once, to state that onlies are more likely to be obese than children with siblings. They are not exactly including us in the main topic.

Aha! There's an entire paragraph for onlies in this one: First Born, Middle Child or Last Born?The one below, though, had some really valuable comments.

Birth Order
Prepared by Judith Graham, Extension human development specialist. She has referenced The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are. New York Dell Publishing. Leman, K. (1985).
Like firstborns, single children are often treated like little adults—sometimes to the point of feeling they never had a childhood. The labels describing firstborns also fit the only-born; but preceding each label—perfectionistic, reliable, conscientious, well-organized, critical, serious, scholarly, cautious, conservative—add the word super.

When the only child falls victim to perfectionism, she usually moves toward one of two extremes. Either one of these roads can lead to becoming the “discouraged perfectionist.”

He may become very critical, cold-blooded, and objective, never tolerating mistakes or failure on his part or on the part of others. Or she may become everybody’s rescuer, the one who agonizes over the problems of others and always wants to move in, take over, and solve everything. Discouraged perfectionists are usually very structured people who hold very high expectations for themselves and others.

What Can the Discouraged Perfectionist Do?
  1. Start each day by giving yourself permission to be imperfect (perfection isn’t achievable). Make a conscious effort to go easy on criticizing yourself and others.
  2. Learn to accept. There is no way you can change anybody else’s behavior. Stop trying.
  3. Memorize “I was wrong,” “I’m sorry,” and “Will you forgive me?” and use them often.
  4. Don’t be so quick to put yourself down, and when others criticize, don’t be so quick to react. Perfectionists are sensitive—be aware of your sensitivity, admit it and cope with it patiently.
  5. Take small bites of reality. Perfectionists often overwhelm themselves with the BIG picture, so work at doing one thing at a time.
Making the Only Child Birth Order Work
  1. Pay attention to all the ideas in Making the Firstborn Birth Order Work.
  2. Exercise extreme caution. Be ruthless with yourself in regard to making too many commitments and expecting too much of yourself.
  3. Make time for yourself. Is time and space for yourself really built into your schedule? Most only children are the type who need some time for themselves.
  4. Choose friends wisely. As a rule, only children get along better with people much older or much younger than themselves. Try to arrange experiences with both groups because these are the personalities you are most likely to click with and the people who will give you more strokes and argue with you less.
  5. Do a self-inventory. Only children are often labeled selfish and self-centered because they may never have had to learn to share with brothers and sisters. Take an honest inventory of your life. How self-centered do you act around your spouse, friends or fellow workers? What specific things can you do to put others first, help others more and be less critical of others?


Debra She Who Seeks said...

I'm not convinced that birth order is a significant determinant of our personalities. There's a lot of other factors on which I would put much greater weight.

Blueberry said...

So much of us is already there at Day 0! I've often wondered what would happen if I got amnesia. How would that change my personality? How many traits are based on memories?


I was raised as an only child but had a older 1/2 sister so I'm not sure where that puts me..but no matter where I'm sure I'd bitch about it..ha