How Birth Order Shapes Personality

Only Children

Jeanie Harris, of Auburn, California, says her daughter, Erin, has always been super creative. "When she was 4, hearing me complain about my nose always being cold, she made me a 'nose warmer' with a half walnut shell, cotton, and some string!" Because only children spend so much time alone, they're self-entertainers and often tend to be the most creative of all birth orders.

In fact, Leman calls only children "Super Firstborns." Like firstborns, they are confident, well spoken, pay enormous attention to detail, and tend to do well in school. Plus, spending so much time around grown-ups often makes onlies act like "little adults." Only children have never had to compete for their parents' attention or share toys with their siblings, so they do run the risk of developing a self-centered streak. They're also used to feeling important and may have a hard time when things don't necessarily go their way, Leman says. Because their role models are competent adults, onlies are even more susceptible to perfectionism than firstborns.

Famous only children: Natalie Portman, Maria Sharapova, Tiger Woods, Alicia Keys, Shane West, and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Out of the mouths of only children: "Everyone expects me to act like a grown-up." "Can I have a baby brother?"

Parenting Your Only Child

  • Since they aren't used to sharing with other kids at home, only children especially can benefit from playgroups.
  • Onlies lean toward perfectionism, so model acceptance of your own mistakes. Remind him that you couldn't cut out a perfect circle at his age either.
  • Don't seize every opportunity to teach her a better way to do something -- if she makes the bed with a few wrinkles, don't remake it. You don't want to send the message that she is not measuring up.

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment