Why Birth Order Really Matters

Today we want to talk to you guys about working with birth order or against it. So this relates especially to those of you guys who have larger families. The more kids you have, the more their order in terms of birth is going to affect the way that their personalities develop. Because our culture is so obsessed with individualism, and not with team when it comes to family, a lot of times the knee jerk reaction is that you want to obliterate any kind of nuances that might be happening in the family due to birth order. You might feel guilty that the oldest might have to work a little bit more than the youngest, you might be playing the fair game and not the team game.

So one of the things to think about, and just maybe challenge you guys about, that if you want your family to function like a team, then I actually think it’s wise to work with birth order and I think there’s something God-given and God-designed about it. There certainly is taking it way too far. You have to be very sensitive to what’s going on in your family with the hearts of each of your kids. But it’s really important that the oldest … The oldest is just going to have a different experience than your youngest, than your middlest. What we call Sydney, she’s right in the, sandwiched in between. She’s number three of five.

Those are very different experiences. It doesn’t necessarily do any good to paper over the difference. And just like in any good team, where there’s different roles and that everyone doesn’t have to be the quarterback or the wide receiver or whatever, these different roles are celebrated because they all function in their uniqueness. That’s something that I think you can really embrace in terms of birth order. There are dangers I think you need to be careful of when doing that, but in general I think it’s something to be worked with instead of against.

What do you think, Jeff?

Yeah, and again, this one goes back to a lot of the, my history with team sports. There’s a fascinating book, I’m trying to remember the name. I probably won’t remember it. But it was a book by a journalist I think, and he traced some of the historic teams in history, whether that’s the Golden State Warriors, the Bowls, or football teams, baseball teams, just kind of the last 50 years, some of the most iconic, the Boston Red Sox during the era where they broke the curse, and he looked at, he makes the argument that the captain of the team is actually kind of, that got them there, why they won, and was more important, in some sense, than the coach. Really fascinating premise.

I mean, you look at the Golden State Warriors, right? Steph Curry, especially these last couple of years, they easily would have crumbled with a lot of the pressures they were going through. If people are familiar with the team news and stuff like that, had he not been … He had a level of humility that allowed some of these really big personalities to come in and stay up. And if he would have been the captain that actually said, “Hey, I’m the best, but I need the spotlight, whatever,” even if Steve Kerr, the coach, was really good, that would’ve just, it would’ve crumbled it.

So really fascinating to, yeah, like you said, actually stay within that. And why I mention that, is the reason I think that’s really fascinating to me, is because we believe in the same thing. I even tell Kinsley that, our oldest, probably five times a day. I look at her straight in the eyes and I say, “You are the captain of the team. I’m asking things of you that I’m not asking of Cannon. You need to set an example. You’re helping us to set the culture.” And now it’s like a fun joke where I’m like, “Who are you?” And she’ll say, “I’m the captain,” and jump up and smile.

That’s awesome.

Or if it’s a really bad moment, then she’s like, “I’m a captain. This sucks.” So it goes both ways.

But no, we want to call that out in her. And then same with Cannon. He’s the youngest right now, but that’s going to be more fluid in the sense of our next kid coming. So you want to work with the birth order. And then another thing I’ll add, me playing team sports my whole life, is I remember specifically teams where the captain for sure was not the best player on the team, but he led with integrity and culture and honor. So what I mean by that is I was … I played on some teams when I was a freshman or a sophomore in college where the senior captain was not that good skill-wise, but he was an incredible captain that led the team.

So I think too, don’t get confused with thinking that they have to be the captain, or the order, whatever, has to be some huge prolific X, Y and Z, and do this and that. It’s more about culture shaping and culture-making, and the captains that are really good skilled, but actually are terrible leaders, that’s really detrimental. So those are just a couple things that I’ve kind of noticed in my own sports history and how we’re calling that out in our kids.

We only have two kids right now, but I’m interested … So we have the captain and then the freshman. But I am interested to see as we grow that family and expand that family, how we’ll continually … Well, it also gives you a mission and a job and a passion to seek that out in your kid. Because if everything’s fair then you just feel like, “Oh, it’s fair. They’re just all the same.” But if you actually say, “Hold on. I need to find my quarterback, I need to find the wide receiver, I need to find the kicker,” then you start really thinking and praying and getting creative. It just kind of almost is like really life-giving and calls out all these different things in your kids.

Yeah. Yeah. So this is something a lot of you may have not even thought about. Is it okay for me to really call up that oldest child? Because they are going to set tone for your family. If your oldest child wants to overthrow your leadership or create a different culture in your home, you’re going to be fighting uphill your entire family life. You need to win their heart early and really work with them in a different way because they have enormous influence over the family. And that’s something that …

Ancient cultures all know this, by the way. You go to China, there’s actually in their culture, the oldest has as much authority as the parents. And that’s very common in ancient cultures that think about large families. Historically, obviously China’s got small families now, but historically they had … The reason why there’s, I don’t know, over a billion people in China is because they had so many kids. They became experts at raising large families before the one child policy. There’s lots of other cultures where this is true.

So just to, in terms of disclaimers, it is really critical to be careful of the envy that can … You create a Cain and Abel situation. There’s always a danger in the home, and that you have to watch what is happening in the hearts of the younger kids and how the older child is leading, or if there’s any resentment or envy going on. That can always happen in a home that you need to … Sibling rivalry is a real danger in any family team, but the best way to overcome that is to help each child play their position well and to go after a mission that really matters for the family.


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