About Paula Kay Glass

Paula has a Masters degree in education with an emphasis on child development and child behavior. She has been an educator for 22 years. She founded a private elementary school in 2003 and is now working through the Moore Public School District in Moore, Oklahoma as a special education teacher. Paula is also a contributing writer to The Huffington Post and has a children's book published. Paula has three grown children and resides in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You can contact her at glass foundations@sbcglobal.net or paulaglass@moorepublicschools.com.

The other day I ran across a post on social media that read: “First-born: I made the rules. Second-born: I’m the reason there are rules. Third-born: What rules?” I had to laugh because as a mom with three under five years apart, my husband and I always joke about birth order, especially since we are both only-children.  Birth order plays a huge role in the dynamics of all-things children. And when combined into a classroom, well, sit back and watch the dynamics unfold.

The order in which we came to inhabit our family line-up reflects the way we resolve conflict, handle disappointments, compete against others and, well, everything in between. Or rather, the order reflects the way we will handle these things that are thrown at us. I love to sit back after getting to know where kids in my class fall in their families and predict the way certain assignments or activities will be handled by certain children based on their birth order. Usually, I can hit it right on the head.

When looking at the birth order, we must remember that there is a five-year cycle. Kids who are born within five years of each other can be classified as first born, second born and so on. If a child is born five years after the previous sibling, the birth order cycle starts over, so depending on age between siblings it is possible to have two or three first-borns in a family. Jolly good times in THAT household. We must also remember that gender does play a role in birth order/personality traits, along with the type of home, parenting styles and cultural group a child is raised in. In other words, birth order isn’t a definitive attribute predictor.

But it sure is fun to look at!

First-born children (also applies to only-children) are usually those who are competitive, may have a difficult time sharing depending on what is being shared, want to have the final word in a discussion, enjoy being around adults and communicate on their level better than on a peer’s level, like things nice and orderly, craves a routine, doesn’t want to break the rules unless it benefits them in some way and are natural-born leaders. They are the kids who are usually first to volunteer for something, will head up and lead activities and try to resolve conflicts in a methodical and logical way. They sometimes have difficulty making friends or fitting in with their peers simply because they just don’t relate to them as well as older children or adults. They are usually very cautious children who look before they leap and they rely heavily on benefits outweighing risks when it comes to trying something new for the first time.

Second-born children are usually those who throw caution to the wind. They are the class cut-ups, the kids who like to rile up the others. They seek attention non-stop in many different ways, but not always as a behavior issue. They usually thrive on positive reinforcement and are up for any challenge, want to stand out and do not necessarily care about only winning. They are turn-takers and eager listeners. They are the kids who most kids get along with. They are the fun seekers and the ‘let-it-roll-off-your-back’ kinds of kids.

Third-born children are usually the children who either don’t speak up much or they are a perpetual ‘squeaky wheel’. They are usually very patient, will go with the flow and are very caring and easy to be around. They make friends easily, learn rather quickly and will give anything a try once. They are the kids that everyone can depend on to be a helper, but will sometimes not follow through with their responsibilities. Third-born children do not have the drive to be recognized like their second-born counterparts.

Children born after the third one will usually fall into whatever their year span category is. For instance, if there are five years between the second-born and fourth-born child, the fourth-born will usually take on the characteristics of the third-born child simply because of the age differences.

Now, let the fun begin. Look at your classroom filled with random combinations of birth orders. As effective teachers, we need to look at the whole child and the combination of children we have in class. The birth order puts a whole new spin on the outcomes of activities or assignments, especially group assignments. When children are assigned to groups most of the time they will assume their role according to birth order. You know that child who seems to not be able to get any independent assignments turned in on time and doesn’t seem to care? Check his birth order. How about that child who seems to boss everyone around, but doesn’t realize her tone when doing so? Those strong ‘leadership’ skills usually belong to a first-born child.

Being able to identify where a child falls in the family line-up can be beneficial to us as teachers. It allows us to identify the strengths and helps us to predict outcomes before they happen. This can also help us curb behavior before it presents itself.

Have you ever noticed how birth order plays out in your classes?


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