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Expert Explains How You Should Parent Based on Birth Order

Photograph by Twenty20

Parenting multiple children is like juggling fine china: If you're not careful, something is bound to break. That said, is there anything parents can do to avoid damage?

According to Dr. Kevin Leman, a psychologist and New York Times bestselling author, there is. In his new book, "The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are," he explains why parents should pay close attention to birth order when raising children.

In an interview with Fox 47, Leman explains his three essential parenting tips based on the order children are born. (As a caveat, Leman urges parents to first pay attention to each child's character.)

"Even identical twins have different fingerprints," he says, "so you should get to know their personalities and tailor your parenting to each specific one."

When it comes to birth order, however, he has specific ideas about how best to approach your children. Leman says that parents tend to hold their firstborn child, the leader of the pack, to higher standards.

"Listen, I don't care what Jimmy did, you understand me?" Leman mocks. "You are the oldest. I expect more out of you."

Leman argues that firstborn children are expected to act a certain way, to set a good example for the other siblings and follow the rules. But demanding too much from a child can also create a lot of unnecessary pressure for them, which can be damaging later in life. Leman's advice: Relax.

The middle child faces a different problem. Because Mom and Dad are often too busy raising multiple siblings, middle children rarely get time alone with them.

"They never have Mom and Dad to themselves," Leman says.

So, what can you do to pull your middle child out from behind the shadow of others? Leman suggests giving them some time in the spotlight.

"At the appropriate time, it's so smart to pull that younger child aside—that middle child or maybe it's a third child—and say, 'Hey, could I ask your opinion about something? Is your sister just a little over-the-top or is it me?'"

In other words, let them know their opinion matters. It will help to build self-assurance and make them feel included. As for the baby, don't let them get too used to being the center of attention.

"You're gonna find yourself laughing at some of those antics," Leman said. "The thing is, you'll laugh and you'll laugh and you'll laugh, and he'll continue to entertain."

Instead, Leman recommends not overindulging the child, as it can lead to disappointment later in life.

"We, literally, train kids in the way they go," he concludes, which is why parents should have a plan—and know how birth order plays into that.

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