It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman: “Your birth order descriptions don’t fit me. Why?” Listen in to find out Dr. Leman’s response on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.
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Doug: Well, according to Dr. Leman, if I’m the baby of the family, I’m supposed to be fun and attention getting. If I’m the oldest I’m supposed to be studious and well thought about, or I think about things well. But the question from a colleague today is, I don’t fit your birth order descriptions Dr. Leman, why not?
Hi. I’m Doug Terpening.
Andrea: I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are really glad that you are joining us today. If this happens to be your first time, I’ll let you know, this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or child, please go seek a local professional for help. Well, actually, even before I jump into Chloe’s question, I feel like either you have gotten monkeys or dogs, there seems to be more excitement in the house.
Dr. Leman: Yeah, well, usually it’s Sandy and I, we no longer have our dog. Our little Cocker Spaniel has gone to, on the dog heaven. But we do have two, four-year-old twins roaming the house. And so I have become an expert in children’s TV, PAW Patrol, Disney’s Playhouse, Mickey and Minnie, this and that. And they get up. We do this early in the morning, by the way, the Terpenings are up 6:00 AM on the West Coast, they live in Oregon. I live in Arizona. So I start at 7:00 AM, Terpenings start at 6:00. While the little ones get up about 6:30 and they are in the family room, which is a good, Oh, I’d say 60 feet from where we are. And they’re as quiet as four-year-old twins can be in the morning. So it just adds a little reality to our podcast. So if someone comes in and you hear all of a sudden, “Grandpa.” That would be one of the twins saying good morning to grandpa Leman.
Doug: What a blessing that they want to come and be with you. Alrighty. Well, let’s jump into Chloe’s question. Here it is.
Chloe: Hi, Dr. Lehman. I have a question about your Birth Order Book. I am highly confused about which of the four I would fall into. I’m the baby of the family, but the oldest is 12 years older than me and the middle child is six years older than me. That would make me function like an only, except for the fact that due to both cancer and marital issues, both of my sisters lived in the house, the whole time I lived at home. My oldest sister also had a baby who is six years younger than me and treated me like I was her sister. My parents are also divorced and my mother remarried, but my father did not and depended highly on me. I always acted older than my age, but I’m also not much of a perfectionist, unless it is an order to please another person. I’m highly driven by pleasing other people.
Another aspect is that I spent most of my summers and any holidays at my art teacher’s house who has children that all looked up to me as an older sister. Thank you so much for listening to my question. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Dr. Leman: Oh well, I love the question, number one, Chloe. And I have to tell you, I love your name too. I think that’s such a great name for a young lady. Let’s see if we can solve the confusion. Number one, your family sounds different. We have divorce and remarriage. We have your aunt, is one year younger than you. If I’m thinking right, if I caught that story right. But birth order wise in your family with one child, 12 years older than you, and one six years older than you, all three of those birth orders are firstborn personalities. Now here’s the question, are all firstborns alike? You have firstborns that are very domineering, they are far removed from pleasers. In fact, I wrote a national bestseller called, The Pleasers: Women Who Can’t Say No-And the Men Who Control Them, years ago, I think it was in the late 80s, I wrote that book.
But the fact that you’re a pleaser fits in very well. I know you think you’re a baby, you’re not. I know ordinarily you’re the youngest, but you function as a first born and your a first born pleaser, where I would assume that with the other two firstborn positions, that is your oldest sister and your middle sister, both of them probably have similarities, but they have distinctives. For example, if the firstborn is the controller, that ends up that one of you have to be pleaser. So I’ve already said you taken that pleaser point. Well, what is the middle child then? The middle child should probably be, if there was a rebel in the family, it should probably be her. If not, the next best candidate for the rebel is the firstborn who’s controlling and dominant. So I’m just saying if you make a list of the personality characteristics that describe your two older sisters, you’ll see that there are distinct differences, and yet all of you are firstborn personalities.
Once you have a five-year gap between the births of the same sex children in a family, you’ve created emotionally and psychologically a new family. So you have three little families under the same roof, which is always interesting. But again, if I heard that right, you have an aunt that’s a year younger than you. And that gets real interesting, especially if you’re living in the same home. So anyway, for openers, that’s my observation on that. And we’ll hear what Doug and Andrea have to say about that. And did I catch that right about that… Let’s see aunt who would be a year younger than her?
Andrea: I think I heard that she has a niece that’s six years younger than her.
Dr. Leman: Six years younger?
Andrea: Six. One of the sisters had a baby and the baby lived there in the house with them, is the way I heard it.
Dr. Leman: Okay. Well then again, now we have four firstborn personalities living in the house and it’d be really interesting to see how they get along. In fact, I’d make a guess that the two that don’t get along would be Chloe and that little aunt or little niece, whatever she is.
Andrea: You described each firstborn has to take on a distinctive. And so you described one is the controller, one is the rebel, one is the pleaser. I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before. Can you run that by us again?
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Well, your firstborns come in two different types. You have the accommodating pleaser who goes through life, trying to please everyone in sight. And then we have little Attila, the leader, but probably a very domineering personality. And so it’s either or at the firstborn position. And their mantra is, I only count in life when I win, when I control what I dominate or when I please other people. I tell a story about taking my wife to one of her favorite restaurants years ago. And she ordered salmon. And this is a very expensive restaurant that we went to like once a year. For example, to celebrate an anniversary. And she’s eating around the edges of the salmon. And I said to her, “Honey is your fish done right? Is your salmon good?” “Oh, honey. It’s fine. It’s fine.”
Well, I’m telling you that salmon was still swimming up stream. It was way under cook. So I said, “Honey, let’s…” “Oh no, no. Don’t make a fuss. Don’t make a fuss.” “I’m the baby of the family. I’m going to make a fuss. That piece of fish was expensive. And so, excuse me, waiter.” He comes over. This is one of those places where they got the gray jacket, the black jacket, that red jacket. I mean, it’s a fancy restaurant. I said, “Excuse me, but my wife’s salmon. It’s still swimming upstream. It’s not done.” The guy sort of “Oh, I’m sorry, sir.” And he went and he brought back a well-cooked salmon, the way she’d liked it. And then the best part of this was the guy comes over, says, “Oh, the chef sends his apologies and he’s going to create a Flambe Baked Alaska, drenched with fresh strawberries.
Doug: So why is it important, and then I have another question about Chloe’s, but why are we talking about this on a parenting podcast? How is the birth order going to help me with parenting?
Dr. Leman: Well, the little boy or little girl you’re once were, guess what you still are. Think about that. The little boy or little girl you once were, you still are. You basically don’t change that much. When you’re under pressure, you’ll revert to your earlier learned behaviors. And understanding who you are as an adult, knowing your pluses and your minuses is really, really important. And just yesterday I gave a PD, a professional development session to our teachers at one of our schools. And I had heard that one of our teachers who’s been with us for a few years, a good teacher, has really turned the corner and really developed into just a top notch teacher. And I mentioned that publicly. I said, “By the way, David, I’ve heard some wonderful things about you. I just think that’s so great that you’re making such an impact on our scholars lives.”
Well, yesterday afternoon, I got an email, “Dr. Leman, hey, thanks for taking the time to visit with us. And your comments to me were really encouraging. Thank you so much.” You don’t outgrow your need for vitamin E. And when you see things in people’s lives, that need to be reinforced by vitamin E, encouragement, you do so. But noticed that this teacher, he responded to that saying, “That really meant a lot to me.” This is a veteran teacher.
And so it helps to learn about birth order to help you figure out what are your negatives? What are your minuses in life? We’re not all five star. I mentioned to them yesterday. I’m not an organized person by nature. To be a good teacher, I think you need to be pretty well organized. That really helps to get through life and be successful. You need organization. Well, what did I do? I’m not organized. I’ve tried to get organized. Not very good at it. Well, I hired Ms. Organization. When I hired Debbie Backus, many years ago, she’s worked for me for 30 years. She’s as organized as they come. She could organize anybody. She can run anything. She’s marvelous. So-
Doug: So for the parents out there that are going, okay, that’s for me personally, but how will it change our parenting toward our kids, if we know their pluses and minuses and where they fall into that?
Dr. Leman: Well, if you know, you’re a perfectionist, for example, you have to be able to harness that perfection. You have to put away the flaw picking critical eye that you own, or you’ll discourage your firstborn beyond measure. Why do I say the firstborn? Because they’re the lab rat of the family. They’re the ones you practice on. You’re not as tough on your third born or your fourth born as you were in your first born. Your first born got in trouble for younger childhood. I don’t care what she did, you’re the oldest. I expect more of you. That type of stuff. So The Birth Order Book, people always ask me, “I’ve never read one of your books, but I really enjoyed listening to you. Where do I start?” And many times I’ll say, “Well, that’s a tough question for me to answer. But I think if you read The Birth Order Book that’s would be a real good starter.”
Because it gets you into family systems. And it lets you see that the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. And it gives you insight into how your parents probably treated the three of you or the four of you the same and how that backfired. It might give you insight as a parent to why you should treat your kids differently. Because they’re different. They’re not clones of each other. So I think there’s great psychological insight and a lot of practicality from reading a book like The Birth Order Book.
Doug: Well, I know for us that what helped us as you often say, we have to get behind our kids’ eyes and see the world as they see it. And I don’t often think of how an oldest will think, or how a youngest will think, or as a middle child. And it really helped me go, “Oh, okay, this is what they’re thinking. This is how they’re feeling.” And it really helped me think, “Okay, I need to back off here and I need to make sure I’m doing these types of things.” So that’s how we’re doing this. One, is just to highlight people that this does make an impact. Now we have a new book from Baker Books that I’m super excited about it, especially in the season that we’re in. And that is called, Stopping Stress Before It Stops You, for [inaudible] 99 from April 1st to the end of April of 2021.
Andrea: And I think it would be really interesting to hear what Dr. Leman has to say about this book. I’m curious.
Doug: Who’s it for?
Dr. Leman: Well it’s for adults. We all have stress. Many times stresses manifest its way throughout our body, headaches, backaches, stomach disorders. Stress will take a physical toll on your body. Now here’s the kicker. We are the manufacturer, as well as the distributor of stress. Where does the stress come from? Does it come with that first cup of coffee? Is it in a drinking water? Or does it come from outside of your body or inside of your body? Try to answer that one. That’s like, what came first, the chicken or the egg. But stress can be very harmful. Our expectations we have, are many times the Genesis of the stress in our lives. For those of you who tend to be perfectionistic, wow, you’re walking through stressful every day because all your little ducks have to be in a row before you move forward.
When you grow up and you realize that life isn’t perfect and life gives you curve balls. And some days when you plan a picnic at range, you’re growing up a little bit at a time. So it’s a good look at how stress is created in our lives and how we can begin to alleviate that stress by the decisions that we make. Many times when I’m talking about stress at a seminar, I’ll say, “Okay, I want everybody to stop. And I want you to think about this. You find out six days from now that you have cancer, stage three cancer. How is that going to affect your life? How is that going to affect the priorities in your life? What now are the most important things in life? How your 15 year-old leaves the room, as she dashes out the door to school? Or is that somehow not so important all of a sudden?
So in that book, I like to ask questions that make people really think about what’s important. A week from Saturday, you’re standing at the coffin of your wife or your husband. How’s that changed how you see things in life? So I get people into thinking about don’t take today for granted, to enjoy this day, to rejoice in this day, realize it’s a gift from almighty God to have this day. And are you going to nitpick and whine and fuss over the imperfection in your life? Or you’re going to enjoy this great day God’s given you? So it’s a good little read. Anybody who feels like they’re stressed, this is a good one for you to read.
Andrea: Thanks. Thanks for telling us about it.
Doug: And now a no nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.
Dr. Leman: There’s no way this parent tip is going to win favor in the hearts of kids or parents. The question is, when should you give that youngster a cell phone? Now I said, “Give.” A lot of parents say, “You know what? You should really work for that phone.” And I agree with that. But I think somewhere between 7th grade and 9th is the time to give kids a phone. Kids have phones I know in 3rd grade, in 4th grade. I have parents telling me, well, they need it for school. I tried another school. I think 7th grade, age 12, 13 is plenty early. Parental controls on a phone, I think is a must. Good luck.
Doug: So then we can go back to Chloe now. How much in her words, I don’t remember the exact word she used, but she described her family as lots of relational problems and divorces. And I think she might even use the word, dysfunction in the family, relationally. It was something like that. How much does that affect birth order when there were appears to be those kinds of chaos.
Dr. Leman: Well, it makes the three sisters in this case, more of a loners, maybe I would call one of them may be a defensive controller, which means essentially I don’t really enjoy controlling, but it’s my best defense against the crazy people I live with.
Doug: Yeah. If you’re on the defense, it’s going to affect everything that you’re doing.
Dr. Leman: It makes us guarded, it makes us distrustful of other people. Does that affect our relationships with husbands, for example? Absolutely. Does it affect our perception of who God is? Well, whatever your daddy was, I got news for you. That, in all probability is a pretty good indication of how you see almighty God in your life.
Doug: And then I hear Andrea right, that she said she did all the holidays at her art teacher’s house too?
Dr. Leman: Yeah. That’s very good perception Doug. You get five stars for remembering that, for picking that up.
Andrea: Oh my goodness, [inaudible].
Dr. Leman: You did. You saved your name in the state of Oregon and Arizona, for sure. But yeah, that’s an interesting point. You see, whatever that art teacher was all about, there was probably a sense of calmness in that family. It was a stress free environment for her to go to. And so lots of times, in fact, I asked some teachers just yesterday, I asked for a show of fingers, “How many people really loved you, really had your back as a kid growing up?” In the average yesterday was about four or five. And I told them, “I’ve asked this a 100 times or more to groups and you guys are on the high end. Usually the answer is two or three. But most of us don’t have a handful of people who really had our back. But when you find someone like that, like Chloe found the art teacher, there was some stability and some calmness that she really liked and that if she researches her memories, she’ll realize that that’s one of the reasons why she was attracted to that art teacher and her home.
Doug: Well, Chloe, we really appreciate this question just to highlight, the Birth Order Book, if you haven’t read it, it’s one of Andrea’s favorite book. She loved it, loved it, loved it, loved it, I highly recommend it. Also during the season that we’re in of life right now, Stopping Stress Before It Stops You is just a great book. Again, we’re all dealing with different stresses this time around that we’ve never dealt with in some of us ever. And you can get it between now or April 1st to the end of April of 2021, wherever e-books are sold. Well, it was great to be with you today and add to that parenting toolbox so you can understand those kids and then love them more and more. We look forward to the next time we get through this with you.
Andrea: Thanks for being with us. Have a good week.
Doug: Take care. Bye-bye.