* Believe It or Not, Birth Order Does Matter *

By Diane Braun, Courier & Press, January 24, 2017 –

My husband and I have three children who are now all adults: two sons born 2 ½ years apart and a daughter born three years later.

As our children were growing up, I noticed our sons were very different even though they have the same parents and grew up in the same house.

It was fascinating to me that our oldest son was always the thinker — looking at every situation from all angles before making a decision or answering a question.  My mother said he was “born old,” demonstrating more patience and maturity than others his age.

My second son has always been impulsive and never hesitated to try a new sport or activity.  He was described by his older brother as the true example of the Nike logo “Just Do It.”  A gifted athlete, he could step into any sport and do well. We had our share of trips to the emergency room, however, when his impulses outweighed caution.

According to Meri Wallace, author of Birth Order Blues, “Some of it has to do with the way the parent relates to the child in his spot, and some of it actually happens because of the spot itself.  Each spot has unique challenges,” she explains.

Simply by virtue of being a couple’s first child, a firstborn will naturally be a sort of experiment for the new parents.  Going “by the book,” new parents will be extremely attentive to the firstborn, strict with rules and overly cautious about the little things.  This in turn may cause the child to become a perfectionist, always striving to please the parents.

Firstborns tend to be reliable, conscientious, structured, cautious, controlling and achievers.  Firstborns are diligent and want to be the best at everything they do.

In contrast, if the couple has a second child, they might raise the second born with less stringency due to their experiences with the firstborn.  They might also be less attentive to the second since there’s another child competing for attention, and they probably will be less inclined to call the doctor’s office for every little scratch and bruise.

In our family, my youngest son was also the middle child.  Middle children tend to be people-pleasers and peacemakers, thriving on friendships and having a large social circle.  Their daring nature is often a ploy for getting attention and can be described as rebelliousness.

Even more important than birth order is creating an environment that is positive, safe, healthy and stimulating.  Though peers, siblings, genes and circumstances all play into how a child’s temperament develops, Wallace states that “parents still are the major influencing factors because, truthfully, the first year of life is the bonding with the primary caretaker that impacts upon self-confidence, trust and the ability to interact with another person.”

Birth order, along with other factors, does play a role in the traits of each child. Focus on each child’s personality and adapt your expectations to their individuality to produce confident, productive people.

Kids Benefit From Playing Outside

Kids playing outside

By Diane Braun, Courier & Press, May 3, 2016 –

Spring and summer brings blue skies, warm breezes and the sound of children playing outdoors. Most parents have no problem sending their children outside to play.

Why? Because we all know there are quite a few real benefits to playing outdoors.

Children who play outside learn how to solve real-life problems better than children who are always in their rooms playing video games in seclusion. Examples of problem solving include learning to get along with friends or trying to figure out the best way to build a fort.

Playing outside provides children with exercise, something many children don’t get enough of anymore. Outdoor play combines exercise with having fun. Riding bikes, playing tag with friends and throwing or hitting a ball all get our children’s bodies moving, something playing most video games can’t accomplish.

It may be hard to accept that children could experience stress or suffer from conditions such as depression or anxiety, but these issues are becoming more common with today’s kids who have busy schedules with long school days and extracurricular activities.

Physical activity in the form of outdoor play can help kids reduce their stress. The Children & Nature Network says contact with nature can help reduce stress levels and positively impact conditions such as anxiety or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

One of the qualities many children are lacking is imagination. In today’s age of technology, children are provided with images for everything.

Why go outside and play astronaut in outer space when we can watch a movie about it or play a video game? Playing outside helps children develop their imagination, which is something television, video games and computers can’t do.

Free play and discretionary time has declined more than nine hours a week over the last 25 years. A new Nielson Company report indicates children 2-5 now spend more than 32 hours a week on average in front of a TV screen.

According to the Keiser Family Foundation, the amount of screen time only increases with age with school-aged children spending 7.5 hours a day on electronic media.

Finally, it’s important that children get vitamin D, and the best source is the sun. Vitamin D helps promote better moods, energy levels, memory and overall health. Just 10-15 minutes out in the sun will give our children their daily dose of vitamin D.

Encouraging children to go outside, get moving and connect with the natural world are all ways to reverse childhood obesity rates. But the benefits don’t stop there. Kids who play outside are happier, healthier and stronger!