You should read this book if you…

Want to understand birth order to benefit personal relationships, marriage, parenting.

“In a nut shell”…

Your birth order affects your life and this book helps you understand why you are the way you are, why your children are the way they are and how to better understand your and your children’s characteristics/needs based on principles related to birth order.

Key Ideas…

  • Not everyone fits the general birth order descriptions for their particular birth order; a child’s experience with both heredity and environment affect the formation of his or her personality.
  • Be aware: Parents tend to over-identify with the child in the same birth order he or she shares. This can result in the parent putting too much pressure on, or spoiling, that child.
  • Regardless of your child’s birth order or why your child is the way they are, disciplining children is a way to best love them.
  • Parents are often either authoritarian, too many limits, or permissive, not enough limits, in their parenting style. Leman encourages reality discipline instead, focusing on training and teaching your child. For example, if your child forgets his math book, allow reality to discipline the child as he experiences the consequences of not having his book at school.
  • All of us develop a personal life theme, which is a personal motto or slogan that relates to our self-image, not necessarily to truth. We, and our children, believe this theme to be true and subconsciously repeat it to ourselves daily, whether we are aware of it or not. Our life themes define to us when we matter, when our life counts. For example, “I only count when I perform, or win, or entertain, or make people laugh, etc.” The truth for all of us is that we matter not because of anything we do or don’t do, but because we are made in the image of the God of all creation. This is the truth, for us as parents and for our children. All other “themes” that we think make us count in life are lies.

Action Steps…

  • Don’t compare your children. Give them freedom to be different from one another, accept their differences and give all of your children plenty of one-on-one time.
  • Differences can cause conflict. Have regular meetings where everyone sits down to respectfully discuss how their behavior affects other members of the family, and if their behavior is causing problems how they can change it.
  • All children need encouragement rather than prodding. Show your child you care by giving comfort, asking about problems and asking how can you help.
  • If you spank your child, you should be under control, not angry, and always tell the child afterward why he was spanked. After spanking, hold your child, tell the child what behavior you expect in the future, and listen to your child to find out why your child acted the way she did.
  • Begin reading to your youngest child very early (as early as six months).

Tips for parenting first born and only children

  • First-borns tend to struggle with understanding the difference between pursuing perfection versus excellence. Perfection is being the best. Excellence is being his or her best.
  • You as a parent model for the child the difference between perfection and excellence. If you struggle with this yourself, your child will see your model. Take perfectionism seriously. Don’t settle for mediocrity, but allow yourself, and your child, to live in reality. Failure is not the end of the world. Sometimes it takes experiencing this to learn it. We can model this for our children.
  • When you bring your second born child home from the hospital, get the first born to help with the baby (the first born can help feed and diaper the new baby, for example).
  • Don’t let your first born child manipulate you to get special advantages, or give in to a temper tantrum or tears.

Tips for parenting middle children

  • While first borns can struggle with perfectionism, middle children can struggle with feeling respected and with being an avoider. They may avoid sharing their feelings. Be sure you make time to sit and listen to your middle child, intentionally and with real interest.
  • For the same reason, intentionally ask your middle child for his opinion or let him make decisions.

Tips for parenting last-born children

  • Be sure to give your last born child plenty of responsibilities around the house.
  • Make sure your last born child is required to comply with family rules and regulations.
  • Remember to display your last-born’s school/art work as much as you did the work of your other children.


  • “If the parents are authoritarians who come down too hard and too unreasonably on their first born, they can turn her into a rebel who, instead of excelling in school as most first-borns would, messes up just to foil the plans of her ‘perfect parents.’” Pg 55
  • “Reality disciplinarians hold their children accountable for their actions, whatever those actions are, to help their children learn from experience…in all cases children are responsible and accountable for what they do.” Pg 260
  • “With reality discipline parents never seek to punish; they always seek to discipline, train and teach.” Pg 260
  • “Discipline should fit the infraction. For example, the child misuses his allowance. When he asks for something extra before the week is out, you simply say, ‘Sorry, you will have to use your allowance and if you haven’t any left, you will have to wait until Saturday.’” Pg 266
  • “Learn to simply hold your child when he or she is having problems. Just say, ‘Everything’s going to be okay.  What’s the problem?…Would you like me to help?’”  Pg 283
  • “The way parents treat their children is as important as their birth order, spacing, sex, and physical or mental characteristics. The key question is: Was the environment provided by the parents loving, accepting, and warm or was it critical, cold, and distant?” Pg 338

Statistics and Interesting Facts…

  • First-born girls who grow up under a very critical father are often hard on themselves and put themselves in unhealthy situations.
  • First borns tend to be organized, serious, goal setting, achieving perfectionists who are people pleasing respecters of authority.
  • The only child can be self-centered because he or she does not have to share with siblings.
  • Second borns are usually the opposite of first borns.
  • Middle born children often spend more time with their peer group than any other child in the family does. They often run with a pack.
  • Last born children are usually charming, affectionate, persistent, rebellious, temperamental, manipulative, spoiled and impatient.

How this has changed my parenting…

I am a first-born, so it was helpful for me to learn more about myself and my tendencies toward perfectionism. Now I will encourage my first-born child (and all my children) to strive for excellence rather than perfection. For example, when my son helps out around the house, I won’t correct his imperfections, but instead will just thank him for helping.

This book also helped me better understand why my husband, who is a middle child, often does things differently from me. It made me appreciate and be thankful for our differences.

I also understand the importance of giving attention to the last born. It is easier to just let them ride the wave of the family. But, that tendency can lead to permissiveness, which then causes problems for the entire family system.

Book Information:
Book Title | The Birth Order Book
Author | Dr. Kevin Leman
Year of Publication | 1998
Publisher | Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group
Pages | 351
Author’s Website |

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