Do we live in a world of bubbles? I remember blowing bubbles with my pre-school children to their great delight and laughter. Playful bubbles, like these, can be really fun and good. Lifestyle bubbles? Not so much.
Lifestyle bubbles tend to be exclusive, rigid, inflexible. They define the either/or polarity of our current, political landscape. But they tend to expand beyond political landscape.
My granddaughter, Kaitlyn, was about 4 years old long ago and entering a pre-K program full of then strangers. I spent time teaching her to approach another child with, “Hi. I’m Kaitlyn. What’s your name?” She was reluctant at first, so we practiced with her teddy bears.
When I picked her up from her first day of pre-K, Katie was so excited. She rattled off the names of four other girls she had met and played with in her class that day. That was her first lesson in being proactive, rather than reactive.
Another parent told me her story some time ago. Similar circumstances. When she was dropping off her daughter at pre-school, another child came up to them to greet them. The mom pulled her daughter back from meeting the other girl, explaining, “Hold on a second, honey. We don’t know this girl yet. Let’s find the mommy or her teacher.”
This family might be living in a bubble. Such bubbles can be protective, but maybe also defensive, limiting possible positive experiences.
Bubble families believe such things as “that’s not how we do things.” “That’s not our belief system.” “We stick to our own.” “Having more information will just be more confusing.” “Stick to what we know to be right for us.” Such beliefs limit experience, facts, and resources.
When families pop that proverbial bubble, children are given the freedom to explore their environments, better understand the variety of cultures, races, and circumstances in their worlds, and find comfort levels that work for them. They have more information from which to make informed decisions.
Developmentally, there are four stages of parenting, based on your child’s age. From birth to age 5, parents make all the decisions for their children. This is hands-on parenting. This keeps their children safe, healthy, and thriving.
From ages 5-10, parents hear their children out, qualify circumstances, and give their children direction. This is directed parenting, borne from their parents’ wisdom and experience. Children engage in and explore their worlds and friendships, but with keen parental oversight.
From ages 10-18, children are developing the capacity for abstract thinking, being able to form their own opinions about what’s important to them. Parents can buck their child’s growing sense of self and risk alienating them. Or, they can hear them out, understand their thoughts and feelings, ask if they want their help, and if asked for, give them advice. This is advice-based parenting. Tweens and teens benefit from their relationship and emotional intimacy with their parents. Parents nurture the quality of children thinking for themselves.
Beyond age 18, our young adults are living their own lives, making their own decisions, and finding their way through a mistake-ridden landscape. Having successfully launched our children into their independent, healthy relationships, socially conscious adulthood, we help them when asked by providing expert consultation. This is consultative parenting.
In business and industry, an expert consultant is first called in to give the consultation. Before his presentation, he gathers observations, policies, and practice to collect his thoughts on the matter. He then makes his presentation and recommendations, thereafter leaving whether his wise counsel is implemented, or not.
If I offer my opinion before being asked for it, I’m butting in. If I disregard my child’s perspective and feelings, I’m dismissing him. He might conclude that I think he’s too dumb or misinformed to get it right, so I’ll just do it for him. Even if the path he chooses is the opposite of your choice and full of risk and regret, the decision is his to make. Your expert consultation and wise counsel provide a foundation for on-going and growing emotional intimacy and healthy relationship with your now adult child.
Lifestyle bubbles are created within your parenting style. Since 75% of your child’s personality is formed in the first 5 years of life, your parenting decisions will likely stay with your child for their lifetime. No pressure. LOL Help your child be proactive, explore their expanding world in safe ways, and find their own path to the good life.
Okay. So, what are ordinal issues? Think of the root word “order.” Ordinal issues have to do with the birth order of your children. There are typical personality characteristics that are affected by birth order. Usually, the first-born child is the most responsible of your children. Also, since that one is your first, and you’ve never parented before, the first-born is the experimental one.
Most new parents use what they know or have experienced. When you’ve been blessed with good parents, you want to parent your own children just like you experienced being parented. If you were victimized as a child by bad parents, you imagine parenting just the opposite of how you were parented. However, if you’ve been severely traumatized by your parent(s), to get through it, some kids deal with that by concluding that it’s just how parenting is. Without proper guidance, these kids often become as troubled as their parents.
First-borns are rule conscious because they don’t want to upset their parents and because all of parental attention, of course, is on them. Their parents are experimental in their parenting because they’ve never done this before and don’t have a good grasp on effective parenting. So, they wing it and continue what works.
When the second child comes along, depending on age difference, first-borns either have a new playmate, or their responsibility gene kicks in and they become their sibling’s surrogate parent. Both options are typically reinforced by their parents. “Look at you, playing so nicely with your brother.” “You are such a mama’s little helper. Thank you for looking out for your brother.”
Research on ordinal relationships suggest that, if your children are closer than three years apart in age, parents get a 2 for 1 special and the kids benefit from basically growing up together. If the siblings are greater than three years apart, the first-born is more likely to embrace the responsible surrogate role with their sibling. The greater birth difference also brings into the picture their differing developmental issues.
Your second child, as the younger, is more likely to be spoiled, testing limits, questioning your authority or parenting decisions. This, of course, requires more of your parental attention to rein this child in and encourage him to conform to your expectations. Having begun the parenting journey with your first-born, parents are less likely to be experimental with their second-born. You’ve figured out what works best.
If/when a youngest child is born, your second child becomes the middle child. Middle children have a mixed blessing. On the one hand, middle children are usually more social, more inquisitive, more curious. On the other hand, middle children are often considered “lost” in the family. Parents tend to unconsciously gravitate toward the oldest and youngest children, as they seem more needy. Middle kids can get “lost” in the shuffle of the family. Accordingly, they often are attention-seeking and can be at greater risk for acting out. After all, negative attention is better than no attention.
The youngest child in you family most frequently tests the limits. They can be more demanding of your attention, often playing the “cute” factor. They want to be included in all things older or adult. Parents want to set healthy boundaries with them and stick to them. They often learn things faster, because the middle and first-born siblings have already been there-done that. Youngest children have the benefit of their sibling’s experiences
If your family has expanded beyond three children, then there are more kids vying for your attention. First-born and youngest roles tend to continue, while middle-child roles are shared among the middle children. Jealously becomes a factor, as new children are added to the mix. All the children look for their “place” in the mix.
Regardless of ordinal issues depending on the size of your family, be sure to carve out one-on-one time daily with each of your children, according to their needs and wants. Also, keep sacred certain whole family time and activities. These become touch tones that everybody learns to count on and define you as a thriving unit, despite of individual nuances.
Such sacred family time and activity can include having dinner as a family around the dinner table each night. This becomes check-in and catch-up time to keep all on the same page. Additional whole family events include annual vacations and holiday traditions. Hope these comments are helpful.