How Parents Can Manage the Good and Bad Personality Traits of the Oldest Child

There are a number of personality traits of the the oldest child that psychologists tell us are common, but these traits can become positive or negative. Of course nothing is universal, so not all first borns fit into this schematic, but they do have a lot in common.

Being a Good Leader vs. Being Overbearing?

First born children are often pushed into leadership roles from a young age. In the beginning they are the center of the universe for new parents, and so they get all the attention. Once younger siblings arrive, they are expected to help teach the younger brother or sister right from wrong and simply how to do certain things.

Parents should avoid being too strict or demanding of their first born child. Putting too much pressure on the oldest child to be a role model for others can make them act out or develop negative tendencies as they grow up such as becoming bossy, always wanting to have control over a situation, and being unable to delegate. This can also lead to the inability to admit mistakes.  

Parents should be encouraging of leadership roles, and at the same time be patient, good listeners, and practice good communication skills.

Being Motivated vs. Being a Perfectionist

First born kids want to please their parents and usually become successful in all areas of their life from school to sports, and later in a career. Many believe this is because they were given more quality “alone time” with their parents like night time reading, which teaches them the value of an education. They also recognize the importance of being organized, punctual, and competent in all that they do.   

Unfortunately, this drive to succeed can turn an ambitious child into a perfectionist who is unable to be satisfied with anything but coming out on top. This desire to be the best can result in an unhappy child and adult when they can’t always be crowned the winner of every activity.

Give your first born a chance to be a kid. Give him or her plenty of opportunities to play and relax. Yes, give them responsibilities and chores, but don’t overload them. Moderate your expectations and don’t expect your child to be perfect every time. Rather than chastising them for receiving a B grade on a test at school, praise them for doing their best.

Being Self Confident vs. Being Insecure

Birth Order Personality TraitsAs the oldest in the family, children become confident in their ability to teach younger siblings and care for them. They know that parents rely on them to take on certain chores and do their best.

Problems arise if parents don’t devote as much time to the older child, which often makes them feel less important than their younger siblings. When they no longer are the center of attention, jealousy is a normal reaction. One specific example is if parents often use the phrase, “You should know better because you are older,” to criticize their eldest child.

Counteract any feelings of jealousy or inferiority by giving the first born extra perks for being the oldest like a later bedtime or other privileges. Add in special time alone with just you in order give them your undivided attention for at least a few moments each day.

What You Can Do

Birth order has a great impact on a child’s behavior, emotions, and personality development,  all of which are easily manageable by parents if they know what to look for. Talk to our in-house child psychiatrist, Dr. Natalie Vona, if you have concerns about your oldest child and the development of any bad personality traits.