Birth Order Blues

A great controversy exists in psychology regarding the relationship between the development of children's personalities and their birth order within the family. After homeschooling my children, one theory I do agree with is the firstborn syndrome. My 18-month-old daughter initially displayed her firstborn characteristics when I brought home her new baby brother. Setting him next to her in the recliner, I could see a look that told me she was not about to share her parents' attention with this new intruder. From that time on, she was always "top dog" in our homeschool family. In schoolwork or play, she was always the leader in control. Although her brother, standing six feet tall, finally outgrew her, the thought to take over never occurred to him. Her rank and authority as the first in the family dictated an unspoken respect and overpowered even his size.

Although the firstborn may not always be the leader in every family, many stories in the Old Testament illustrate the importance of the firstborn's position within the family. Stories such as Jacob stealing Esau's birthright, the sacrifice of the Passover lamb for the firstborn of every Hebrew family, and the principle of the double portion of inheritance found in Deuteronomy 21:17 clearly reveal the special blessings and responsibilities given only to the firstborn. Christ Himself, the Son of God, is called the firstborn in Colossians 1:15: "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature."

How do you treat the firstborn in your homeschooling family? Like most parents, you probably strive to treat each of your children equally, but do you find yourself disciplining your oldest more strictly? Subconsciously, you may feel that you must make an example of your first child, so the rest of your children turn out right. Perhaps it's time to give credit to our firstborn children and acknowledge the responsibilities they bear in being the oldest and bearing the brunt of our parenting and homeschooling mistakes. Although each child is precious within the family, take a moment today to acknowledge the special blessing of your oldest child who is the beginning of your strength (Deuteronomy 21:17)!

Lord, thank You for the blessing of each child You have given to our family. Give me wisdom to acknowledge my oldest for his place in the family and show me how to teach him to follow You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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Comments(12 comments)

TRACEY B 02/17/2009 07:46:02

I think a great way that I have found to acknowledge my daughter's firstborn of five status is to honor her. She does carry more responsibility as the eldest, and we believe that is God's plan and so there's a sense of being chosen by God to bear that burden. Along with more responsibilities comes more authority, more "rights", more honor. When we leave her in charge of the children we tell all of the children that she is in charge and they must listen to her. There are many ways to instill the privilege it is to lead and not just the burden of it. This will spill over into the Church as they leave our homes. Its great opportunity to teach the roles in the Church and in marriage as well. And for the younger children it is good for them to learn to submit, to feel the safety of having authority over them, and to be thankful rather than prideful. Thanks for the great devotionals, they are often provoking!

ELIZABETH J 02/17/2010 04:28:06

I just go finished reading one of Dr. kevin Lemans books on raising children. In his book HOW TO MAKE THEM MIND WITHOUT LOSING YOURS (or something like that). He talks about all the resposibilities of the first born child and the extra work load. Dr. Leman says that he feels that as a child grows older the resposibilities of the chores they carry and so on should actually decrease. It was the other way around with us. Any time I needed something done I just automatically called for katy, because she already knew how to help me do what needed to be done in the shortest amount of time. Dr. Leman suggested that the older children should be able to devote more time to studies and church related activities while many of the chores they carry are distributed to the younger siblings. When I first started reading his book HAVE A BETTER CHILD BY FRIDAY my children hated even the mention of his name. Now Katy just calls him Grandpa. LOL His method has worked wonders for us. Katy doesn't feel like she has to rush through her work. And the younger children get to experience that wonderful feeling of a job well done.

ROSANNA M 02/17/2011 07:30:03

Rosie J

I agree that the firstborn does fall into a special place within our family of five. Our oldest son has a sense of being in control and this is how he has been since toddlerhood. He functions best when he knows the schedule for the day and what will be expected of him. While he is always eager to help, we try to make sure the other siblings feel equally important in their roles within the family. It is important for the firstborn to see that the others have importance also. Being firstborn naturally equips a child for leadership, as I believe God intended it to be.

AMANDA W 02/17/2011 08:04:13

This is truly a timely devotional for me. I was just praying about my relationship with my oldest child. We have four altogether and she does get the brunt of many things as well as more responsibilities. But what a special child she is! Sometimes I forget to take note of all the giftings God has placed in her, including the leadership. She difinately takes on that role without me asking. Her brother does not appreciate it though. He is the only boy and does not like having a bunch of sisters boss him around. Thank you for this today. : )

SUZANNE S 02/17/2011 09:10:01

Wonderful morning devotion for me! My firstborn daughter is just beautiful inside and out. I am proud and honored to be her mother. She does a lot without being asked especially when it comes to her little sister. I love watching the bond they have continue to grow and I pray for them to remain close and connected with one another. I am the firstborn and have a little was not so nice for us and we are presently rebuilding our relationship as I type this.

LAURA L 02/17/2012 03:57:19

Glory to God! He just answered my prayer! Thanks, God! Thank you!

MARY H 02/17/2012 08:27:07

Thank you for this devotion. My husband and I are both first borns. We totally understand the \"blessing\" of being first born and all it\'s responsibilities. We also have five children and have been empathetic to our first born. I was especially blessed by this devotion and take it to heart and caution parents that this blessing can also make one bitter. First born responsibility put on children by \"non\" first born parents can be so great... It causes bitterness. (not only for them but for those around them) It is hard to sometimes recognize something so natural as depending on a child, but as life goes on, those natural born leaders take it all in stride. But they also need care and retreat from the weight of being \"first born\" and being responsible. It is a great privilege to be first and carries with it not only personal weight of meeting parental standards, but the weight of others and a God given deep instinct for being a leader. No matter how one tries they can never \"not\" be responsible,or not be a leader. Somehow, they always appear at the front willing to take on more responsibility and are bound to care for the others around them. I know God has taught me alot about being afirst born and how I grown to step back and be a support so others can use their talents and gifts. It is very rewarding to be in that role and not always feel the need to be the leader. It\'s one of those things that I encourage you to add to the role of being a first born. Be the encourager of rest and let the other children role play being leader, They have gifts and talents and your first born might need rest. I promise your first born will rise quickly to the forefront again but they will be glad for the \"time off\".

TABITHA J 02/17/2012 08:31:18

When I was a kid, even though I was the third child to be born, my personality fits more of a firstborn because of the long gap between me and my brother (6 years).

ELIZABETH F 02/17/2012 10:24:41

This was a very interesting blog today. I tried very hard not to fall into the birth order trap, but I don\'t think it\'s possible. I assigned all of my daughters equal chores while they were growing up, trying not to give too much extra responsibility to my oldest, and yet she still fell into the roll of the first born. The funny part is my 4 younger daughters just accepted it as naturally as breathing. They looked up to her and listened to her to the astonishment of onlookers. I think even harder was not babying the youngest. Being the youngest I told myself I wasn\'t going to do this either. But the entire household took over and despite my determination, my youngest is most definitely the baby of the family.

BRENDA M 02/17/2012 14:37:20

I am a firstborn. My husband is a firstborn. My 21 year old daughter is a firstborn, but after waiting almost sixteen years to have another baby, my son acts like a

I do sometimes feel like I have two \"only\" children :)

VANESSA W 02/17/2012 15:18:27

My husband and I have never been able to have biological children. However, with adoption there is still an \"order issue.\" We find that with our first and oldest son He is definately king and has had many jealousy issues. When we got his sister he was not so sure he liked her at all and now that we have two little boys we may adopt, he isn\'t so sure he wants them either. But then when I suggested that I Love him and will never stop and that these little ones deserve a loving home as well, he began to understand. Although, admittedly, with him being our oldest he does have a special place in my heart. At the same time there\'s no doubt we love them all. can\'t imagine life without them.

DENEEN ROBERTS 02/17/2013 12:53:34

As expressed by the other families, thank you for this devotion. My family seems to be the "odd" family in this regard. I am a single, homeschooling parent of two teens, 17 and 15. My son is the oldest and is not the leader. While he possesses great leadership skills, he has to be "directed" in his responsibilities at times. He is in his first year, second semester of college, is an A student, but can be very lazy and is comfortable with his mom and sister assuming leadership roles in the home. He does not work outside of his school responsibilities (though that is about to change because I told him he needs a job). While on campus, he was to get a job, even though he received a "full ride" scholarship, and he chose not to do so. He still had needs though and as a result, he is being billed from his school for some things that would have been taken care of if he had gotten a job as I encouraged him to do.

My daughter knows what I need before I say "I need...", already works as a babysitter and helps financially, maintains an A/B average in school, is already writing her first novel in a novel series, helps me around the house, cooks some meal almost daily.

Both teens are walking in their callings; my son as an evangelist and my daughter as a writer of Christian fiction. I was a single parent in the marriage home and though their dad lived in the house, he did not engage the family and does not see the kids now. He was cruel to them, specifically my daughter, and the kids desire a relationship with him only after he has received some psychological help.

I have challenged my son to step up in the home by telling him to "never let a woman outwork you" and the practical ways that should be applied. I have seen a major improvement in him; he cooks, cuts grass, shovels the snow, and etc. and it's not that I permitted him to be lazy (long story made as short as possible) because the kids and I did all of these things in the marriage home...

I am praying and diligently seeking the Lord in this but thank you for sharing this devotion. From this, I have a different perspective on how to encourage him to "lead" in the home without assuming a role vacated by his father.

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