Thursday thoughts: are some kids naturally more naughty than others?

cheeky marlow

My sister recently just spent a couple weeks with us here in New Zealand and toward the end of her stay, she looked at me and asked ‘do you think Marlow is more naughty because she was born that way, or do you think it’s because she’s the youngest and she’s been allowed to be?’. It’s an interesting question and one which I couldn’t actually answer.

I’ve always thought Marlow was just born with extra cheek and a bit of a naughty streak. Not really naughty in a bad way, but more of a cleverness and curiosity that can sometimes lead to trouble. She seems to have more of this curiosity than the other children have ever had. After all, none of the other kids ever had a problem with drawing on walls, climbing onto kitchen counters, cutting their own hair, escaping from her car seat in the car, etc. In fact, when Marlow cut the entire left side of her hair off last year and came walking into the room as if nothing had happened, all three of the other kids were so upset, they were crying hysterically. They couldn’t believe she would go that far.

So, while I’ve always felt like this is just the way Marlow is, my sister raised a good point. Could it also be that we’ve fostered this personality? Being the youngest of four children, she naturally has different parents than our eldest children had at her age. We are more distracted with the other kids so there are more opportunities to sneak under the radar and to get into trouble without us catching her. Maybe we’ve also become a bit relaxed with our discipline over the years and are more forgiving of her behavior. Another element I’ve noticed is that even when I do discipline her, she often turns to her older siblings for love and support, and mama becomes the ‘bad guy’ (receiving disappointing looks from all the children). I mentioned she is clever – she knows exactly how to play the ‘baby of the family’ card. : )

Could it then be a youngest child thing? Perhaps it is in our family, but I know it’s not the case in others. I’ve had many conversations with friends who tell me their ‘naughty’ child is their middle child, or even their eldest. So the birth order argument doesn’t always hold true. (On a side note – I find the study of birth order and children’s personalities SO fascinating! I even took a class on it in college. ) Maybe it goes back to my initial thought that some children are just born with a bit of extra cheek…

I would love to hear your thoughts. It’s an interesting nature versus nurture debate. Do you happen to have one child more mischievous than the others? If so, which number child is he or she?

The photo above was taken this summer by Sara Welch who happened to capture my children’s personalities perfectly. 


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Comments (52)

January 21, 2016

I was just thinking about the exact same thing the other day. With us, it’s the other way around – Tila can be such a rebel and sometimes (too-many times) behaves like a true adolescent and Talan is the quite opposite.


Becca
January 21, 2016

I always find it interesting how much their personalities can relate to how they were born. My first was a long slow labour resulting in a vacuum extraction and even now as a seven year old he takes ages to do anything and has to be coaxed into doing anything new! My second on the other hand arrived very quickly, almost in at home, we only just made it to hospital, and now is so eager to try new things and is so cheeky! It’s like the way they arrived into the world showed the type of personality they would have!


Pippa
January 21, 2016

Hi Courtney, thank you for your post. It’s always an interesting debate. I am the baby of the family by quite a few years (my brother is eight years older than me and my sister ten years). My parents were incredibly liberal with me, and by the time I came along barely parented! I have always been the sensitive, considerate one of the family, you just had to look at me and I would alter my behaviour! My older brother and sister on the other hand, who had very different parents to me, and were disciplined much more harshly, have always been more fearless, thick skinned and much naughtier than me. I have no doubt that nurture is hugely impactful, but I think we are also born with little characters already in place! Pippa xxx


January 21, 2016

Hi Courtney,
The question you raise here is also on my mind. I’ve got three kids, A girl, Anna, 11, a boy, Augustin 8, and the little one Daphné, 3 (just like Marlow). This one is more cheeky than the others as if she knew she would still be ‘the baby’ all the time… I try to educate all my kids in the same way, but I think, like you, that I’m really more relaxed than I was with the older ones and I haven’t got the same priorities because I’ve changed of course all along the years and thanks to my first experiences as a mum,..
It may yet have been the same even whe I was pregnant of Daphné, which could have influenced her own character : she feels at ease everywhere, she’s very self-confident….
Morevoer, like you, when I’m the ‘bad cop’, she goes and sees her brother and sister to find support… never alone 😉 !
So I think culture may surely be at work here, and it intensifies its natural self-confidence..


Cathy
January 21, 2016

Your description of Marlow walking in nonchalantly with half her hair cut off and her older siblings crying hysterically made me laugh out loud, as did the disappointing looks all the children gave you for disciplining her. Our youngest (of three) is the same and gets into WAY more trouble than her two older brothers ever did. She is also a climber and fractured her leg falling off the kitchen stool when she was just over a year old. I always thought the youngest would be the most easygoing child, but I was clearly wrong. Although perhaps she will be when she’s older… I think it could be that I’m more distracted with the older two so she has to find ways to entertain herself – I probably sit and play with her less than I did her older brothers. But also she thinks that she’s the same age as they are and is determined to do anything they can do. She’s very clever and funny too, so one minute we’re in despair and the next minute she’s making us all laugh.


Courtney in London
January 21, 2016

Marlow is the same! So funny, making us all laugh. You’ve also reminded me that Marlow also fractured her leg – jumping off my bed! Our daughters sound very similar! x


SHOW ALL COMMENTS
January 21, 2016

Marlow sounds just like my 2 year old and he is an only child 🙂 I definitely think it is part of their personality and something they are born with.


January 21, 2016

Here you can include me and my experiences with my kids, Nick and Dany, they surprises me every day


Nathalie
January 21, 2016

My eldest is exactly the same and does all the same things as you mentioned, (apart from the hair cutting – yet, eeek!) so I don’t think the birth order argument necessarily holds true. He is not naughty, naughty as you say, just very curious, mischievous, cheeky and clever. Even as a small baby he was very very alert and always finding things to play with that he shouldn’t, unlike my second. I think he is just inherently inquisitive and although I do disapline him appropriately, I also think it’s important not to dampen that part of his nature. It’s all about finding the balance and assessing which behaviours are acceptable and which are not. Although he is an absolute hand full at times, (being the only child that wants to jump up and down the steps at the back instead of singing at music class!!!) he is such great fun, with such personality, and I find the way he looks at the world so inspiring, I wouldn’t have it any other way!!!


Kristy
January 21, 2016

I am the youngest in my family (I have two older sisters) and definitely the most naughty. As a child, I would get into trouble at school chatting to my friends in class, causing ruckus in the hallways, dropping pencils out the window of our classroom. At home I drew on the walls, cut my sisters dolls hair, etc. I was never mean, just a rule breaker. I personally believe I was born like this. At 21 years old, I still can’t find a single reason that motivated me to do all this. I was just generally curious and couldn’t help it. I don’t think it had to do with way I was raised. I hated making my parents upset. Interesting post!


January 21, 2016

I just have one child, a daughter who is now 1.5 years old. But she is just like Marlow. So fearless, curious and adventurous and I have to keep an eye on her all the time. She also learns so quickly by observing – so she knows how to unscrew lids off things and unbuckle her harness. She also started walking at 10 months . I def think it is just her innate spirit.


Stephanie
January 21, 2016

Hello Courtney, this is such an interesting topic. I find that many differences in personalities between siblings lie in birth order although how we, parents, react and treat the children because of that order plays a part too.

I have 2 boys, 7 and 4 years old. My first tends to be more conscientious, cautious and even controlling of his brother. He always takes control of the games they play, he sets the rules and then gets really frustrated when little 4 year old Ruben completely ignores him and does his own, always more daring, version of the game. Ruben, the youngest, seems to be more uncomplicated, more daring but also a lot more manipulative to get his own way. So far, very typical behaviour.

Interestingly though, a few years ago our step daughter started to spend more time with us. She is 5 years older than my eldest and so she ‘relegated’ him to being a middle child. When she is around, he does behave differently, he doesn’t seem to be as bossy with his brother and tends to delegate the leader role to his older sister. Whilst the youngest becomes even cheekier than normal. But I do think that this is a reaction to how I, as a parent, and them as siblings interact at each scenario. i.e. do I rely on the eldest for more help or ‘expect’ them to have more common sense, either when the eldest at home is my son or step daughter? Certainly. Do we all allow the little one to push the boundaries further than anyone? Most definitely. Are they different kids when their sister is at home with us? No, their personalities do not change however their behaviour and actions are very different.

So, for me, some of it has to do with the way the parent relates to the child in that birth spot and some of it relates to the spot itself and how kids see themselves on it.

Lots of love from a London mum, lovingly following your adventure around the world!


Courtney in London
January 21, 2016

Stephanie,
Thank you for sharing! How interesting that introducing a third child can change the family dynamics. I also find that when one of my children is away (for example the eldest) the others play so differently. My second child takes on the eldest child’s role, and because it’s not normal for him, he’s a bit awkward doing it. It’s so fascinating to watch!
But like you said – their personalities remain the same, it’s just that their behaviour is altered. x


January 21, 2016

I’m going to say it’s a personality thing. I only have 2 children, but they have very distinct personalities and both are naughty in their own ways. My older son is highly sensitive and his brand of naughtiness is quite different than his younger sister who is naughty with a smile. My son tends to be a tad more volatile and his naughtiness is often done with less grins and laughs.


Abby
January 21, 2016

I have 2 girls, and a third (surprise) on the way. My oldest (4.5 Ariana) has a very placid nature. She is quiet. She rarely pushes back. The younger Penny is 19 months, but her personality has been evident from day one. She likes things on her terms. She’s sassy and energetic, and curious and completely adorable (and she knows it). She demands attention wherever we go, waving at everyone, saying ‘hi’ and ‘bye!’. We joke that it’s because she has red hair… Fiery by nature! But I think it has been a combination of her own individual personality, and the environment that he allowed her to express herself in this way. We treat the girls differently at this stage, partly because one is 3 years older than the other and capable of more responsibilities, but I am always conscious that Ariana is still very small and allowed to make mistakes.
We recently had a very long trip from London to Australia and back. Ariana is the child you can literally forget is even there. She watches movies, she draws… And when she’s tired she falls asleep. Penny on the other hand had to run up and down the aisles. When you call her she never comes. Never. Ever. When you tell her to hold your hand she releases it. This was not my experience with my first who we made the trip with many times previously and at a similar age.

I am praying, for my own sanity, that this next baby due in 11 weeks is placid and docile and ‘easy’ 😄😉


January 21, 2016

I love these Marlow stories. She’s a charmer! x


Jess
January 21, 2016

I was thinking about this myself today while watching my youngest playing and chatting to another mum. My youngest son is so much cheekier and naughty compared to his older brother! He knows when he is being naughty and gives me that cheeky smile and carries on while my oldest would have stopped immediately! My youngest is definitely more extrovert too, he is very social and curious about everything going on around him. My boys are opposite in looks and personality, so I wonder whether they are born with a certain character/personality that develops as they get older. Great article and an interesting read thanks x


Maggie
January 21, 2016

Hi Courtney. Interesting post. I have to say I believe it to be a culmination of all of the factors you mention. These little beings are beings from the get go so I think a lot of it is just hard-wired in the genes and some of it is ‘created’ from various external factors – be that the type of parenting they experience, their births, even the type of pregnancy mum had etc. I think so many intricacies play a part in building and forming their little personalities. It is completely impossible for us to parent each child in the same way anyway, even when we believe we are. I too have a wild one and I am in awe of her fierce spirit. These little ones will grow up to be world-shakers I’m sure. 🙂


January 21, 2016

My children are nearly 4 and 2, and the older one is definitely the more strong-willed, naughty one. I’ve always chalked it up to being the first born of two first born, type-A parents. My younger child certainly has his willful moments, but is generally pretty easy going. People always assume that I have my hands full with the younger one because my first is a girl and boys are supposedly more wild, but that has not been the case for us! I do assume nurture plays a part, but looking back my daughter was rambunctious in the womb…even getting herself extremely tangled in her chord, and flipping from breech to transverse and back again over and over. My son, was much calmer. He would move a bit, but mostly just to stretch as far as he could, reposition himself, and go back to sleep. Ha!


Courtney in London
January 21, 2016

Good point! My eldest is definitely the most rambunctious, energetic of all my kids and he was also the most active in the womb. He never stopped moving in there! And then my second, a very quiet, introverted boy, hardly moved. They are who they are from the very beginning! And I think it’s interesting that you mention gender. I think it’s so sad that people always assume boys have more energy and are more wild. So untrue! I have two boys who could not be more different from each other, and two girls who again have such different characters. In our family, the ‘wildest’ ones are the eldest and the youngest, a boy and a girl. x


January 21, 2016

Yes, that is so so true! I knew my girl is going to be pretty “willd” ever since she moved me along with the belly 🙂 And I always said my second one, the boy, is going to be more calm, will like to hug and cuddle as he was being very still in my belly, he never really kicked, he was only trying to find the most comfortable position 🙂


Francesca
January 23, 2016

I read all the comments hoping I might see the “in the womb” comment – Mel Town – this was the exact case for me. Two older boys, 8 and 6 – relatively “gentle” pregnancies and then BAM! When my (now) 18 month daughter was in my womb it was a daily disco. She is aptly named Liberty, and oh my gosh my girl can sniff out an exit route from any baby club or group at 1000 paces… We have a very large 40-strong extended family. The genetic pool for behavioural comparison is large. She is – the youngest of all of those 40 members – and she is, what we all politely refer to as “the busiest”! I feel blessed to have a girl so much stronger than me – she keeps me on my toes and the boys watch her antics with jaws wide open, but secretly I’m delighted she’s such a strong-willed freedom-fighter! (Ps: I am the youngest of four and am over-sensitive and super docile!!) xxx


Sophie Childs
January 21, 2016

Really enjoyed reading this great article! I was a very naughty child that loved testing everyone’s patience, and that made me wonder whether or not it had something to do with the fact that I was the youngest in my family. Now I’m not sure as my eldest daughter’s personality is very similar to mine! My youngest daughter will be just 6 months old in 2 weeks, but at this stage, we’re pretty certain that she’s going to be calmer than her big sister!


Joanna
January 21, 2016

Hello,
your question is one I have pondered many times. I have five boys aged 10 to 2.5. The youngest is fearless, cheeky and into everything. He believes he can do anything the big boys can. None of the others climbed furniture, drew on carpets, cut books up, or wandered away from me in a crowd for example. This sounds naughty but it’s never done in a malicious way. He does not stop talking from the time he wakes to the time he sleeps. Some of his antics are amusing and sweet but the fact he can unintentionally get him self in a pickle is a huge worry. I too wonder if he would have been the same if born second or third or have we as parents become more relaxed he is disciplined and by us but I wonder is he ignored slightly (not in a bad way) to explore and discover at his own pace whereas the others were monitored guided more. But I better go there is silence….


Morgan
January 21, 2016

She’s a scorpio. I never put any stock into the zodiac until I had a scorpio daughter. She fits it to a t…intelligent, strong willed, emotional, needs discipline!


Joya
January 22, 2016

Yes! My youngest of three boys is a Scorpio as well. Ha!!


Devina
January 23, 2016

I agree about the Scorpio thing! What you mentioned about Marlow is freakingly the same as my Scorpions. Xx


Kylie b
January 21, 2016

Hi, I think children are born with differing tendencies but I also believe the levels of naughtiness they reach are a result of parenting. I also think personalities areformed by the siblings we have and where we fit in that, and then again when we grow and become part of different groups. It truly is a very interesting topic.


January 22, 2016

I have 5 kids and 4/5 are that type! I think these kid are very hands on and have different needs in viewing the world. I don’t have a minute break and I never leave them alone in fear of what they will do:) even my 17 month old baby is showing signs of this fun loving personality. I can’t imagine having three relaxed and calm kids, it must be so nice to have such a calm household.


January 22, 2016

Hi, i too find this subject fascinating! Before i had children, i 100% believed that children are what you make them. All that went out of the window the moment my first was born. Well, probably when he was around 18 months. He is a ‘handful’ to say the least. He will argue black is white, he throws everything and anything, he has the attention span of a frog (?) and will always dig deeper than anyone to win the day. I, of course, blamed myself. It was because i was too soft, then perhaps because i was too hard, because i was inconsistent, or because i was just rubbish at being a mum. But i believe he had a headstart by just being a little bit too strong willed, energetic and excitable and maybe he is just going to take a bit longer to learn the rights and wrongs! Maybe! My second is so different, already at the age of 2 he can be reasoned with and doesn’t go looking for trouble. He will also sit still and allow his body to rest which is amazing… so far!!


Lisa
January 22, 2016

I have four and my second is the ‘naughtiest’ and the most ‘stubborn’. But she was the happiest sweetest baby until she turned TWO! Then she developed this willfulness {cut off her hair, drew on the walls, tells ‘fibs’ ‘I didn’t touch it’ etc. She is also the one that everyone else is most drawn to and is often the one who others will say ‘She’s my favorite’ – her personality is really strong but she is loving and kind. {Which is all that matters to me at the end of a long day……!}

My youngest is now entering her twos and is the same – was the sweetest easiest baby and has suddenly discovered the word NO! and likes to say it a lot. When she wants something she gets it. Oh dear…..


January 22, 2016

Dera Courtney,
after reading your post just now I thought about your raised questions and thought process. I think i have a “marlow” of my own (second child) wich I think, is just born that way. She is funny and cheeky in nearly everything she does and it comes so natural to her. She make me love every day so many times and I think she is just made that way. But thinking about birth order i guess after having your first kid(s) and might be knowing this one could be the last and also being a little bit older than with the first child, i would agree that we might be enjoying cheeky behavior in our kids even more. You get a a lot more relaxed with every child you get and trying even more to enjoy them growing up in all the family chaos they make. So in conclusion, i think being the cheeky children some of ours are, is ones genetic but also might be nurtured by our parently behavior.

I always love your post, your pictures and your thoughts about your children and life, and it makes me want to go through all the mess, work and so much fun to have a big family of my own.
Lots of love, Eva


Danella
January 23, 2016

Hi Courtney, reading your comments on the mischievous things Marlow does has reminded me so much of my youngest Tabitha she is 2.5 in May and by far the naughtiest and full of energy, she is constantly climbing on the kitchen work tops to get to the cupboards and mostly once I’ve left to go upstairs or something within seconds she is up to no good, she has always been allowed to get away with quite a bit I think but being my youngest of 8 she is my last I’ve given in all the time to her demands and she is a handful at times. I do also think though that she is very bright and doing, saying ,learning lots of things that my others didn’t at this age and maybe with a certain active minds they need to be fed information more often to stay out of mischief


Zoe
January 23, 2016

Well I think birth order has boing to do with it! I am an only child and I can assure you I had much more cheek than other kids. I also know people who’s oldest children were the naughtiest; it is purely down to personality, it has to be?


Zoe
January 23, 2016

*Nothing


January 23, 2016

I loved this article because I’m fascinated by birth order and personality.
Our youngest is three, she is equal parts stubborn,funny,wild and loving. She has always done things her own way and on her own time. Like Marlow she is wise beyond her years and plays on her baby of the family role, she has her brother and sister wrapped firmly around her little fingers!
I know our parenting is different this time round and I am definitely distracted by other things that inevitably come along as her siblings get older but I still believe a lot lies in birth order.
There is two minutes between my daughter and son yet they are so clearly the eldest and the middle child. Hester is bold, brave and fearless and Stanley is the negotiator and peace keeper. I often wonder what Kit will be like when she reaches 8 like them-especially as she thinks she is capable of anything they do now!
As an aside-we too have been travelling (we are in the last weeks of three months) through New Zealand and Australia. I feel very lucky to be able to spend so much time with all three (and even teach them- I never thought I’d say that!) and watch how close they have become. We well and truly have the travelling bug now and plan to strech to a year in 2017 for further adventures, thank you for the Instagram feed and blog-you’ve given us tonnes of ideas for South America and I can’t wait to see what else your family has in store.


Louise Morgans
January 23, 2016

I have 2 boys, 16 months apart. My youngest is a few weeks older than Marlow and exactly the same. This subject fascinates me too and I’m always pondering it. I’d say my youngest was different from the moment he was born, he made more noise, didn’t sleep, always wanted to be in an uprite position looking around, smiled a lot, walked by 9 months and did everything else very early too. It was like he just loved life instantly. As a toddler there is nothing he didn’t do; ripping books up, messy, drawing on walls, climbing book shelves, climbing out door trellis, showering fully clothed. I could go on and on! That side of things has settled now he’s 3 but have been replaced with even more of a stubborn streak and always pushing the boundaries. My eldest is the polar opposite he’s very sensible and always rushes to tell me what my youngest has done. I think this personality type is a more creative personality. He’s been a handful, he’s wicked and some may say “i need to control him more” but I wouln’t change him for the world.


Maria
January 23, 2016

I loved reading this post! everyone’s comments have been fascinating. Lately I’ve been wondering about nurture or nature – my youngest who recently turned 3 seems a lo like Marlow… maybe there was something in the stars that year and these girls are going to do something phenomenal later in life? She constantly rolled and kicked in my tummy and as a baby it seemed she was never satisfied to just be a baby. She is so full of sass and so so smart! Just when I think I’m going to explode with frustration she’ll do something so sweet and hilarious it melts my heart! I remember my midwife laughing when my daughter was born and her exact comment “this wee girl is a firecracker” Yep, she sure is and I love her for it!


Dia
January 23, 2016

I would say my children are equally naughty. However, my younger is naughty in a way I am more accepting of than my older. My younger can struggle with self-control and focus and can get very angry (they are less than a year apart, so these struggles are not age related). All those things can be very annoying, but generally I can cope well with it. My older daughter is quite strategic, can be overly dramatic and can have a very strained relationship with the truth. I find that much harder to deal with.

My mother, who is very different from me, looks at it the other way round. She finds my older daughter very clever. So the perception of who is the naughty child also depends on the personality of the person making that judgement.

Another important factor is looks. My younger one has curly hair and a cheeky look about her, whereas my older one has straight hair and a very balanced face. I have had complete strangers in the tube (!) point at my younger daughter and say “She is your naughty one, isn’t she?”. To them it seemed so obvious, they felt the need to point it out (weird…).

I see my children as equally naughty, just in different ways.


Kristin
January 23, 2016

Yes!! Perception-absolutely! My ‘slightly naughtier’ second born is seen as clever and a leader by one side of my family and Machiavellian by the other 😉 she is a good kid and the issues we refer to are small potatoes…just those things That keep parenting interesting and lively 😉


Courtney in London
January 24, 2016

What an interesting point about how others perceive your children differently! I remember my mum (who has five children) always got frustrated when people would make assumptions about her children without knowing them (or even if they did know them!) She always worried that there would be some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy taking place if people assumed things of the children (oh, you’re the smart one – you’re the athletic one – oh you must be the shy one, etc. etc.). I guess in a way, it’s maybe not so good to label our children in this way. (I do try to avoid saying things like ‘naughty’ or ‘shy’ in front of my children for this reason.) Anyway – so interesting! Thank you for sharing. x


Gaby
January 23, 2016

Hi court!!! Such a question!!!! Dont know if you remember me 😁. We met in buenos aires, Argentina.
I have 3 kids: Santiago 8 years, Martina 4 and Felipe 3, we say Pipe (birth on June).
Santiago is an Ángel. He is the goodnes of the family. Martina is sweet and Nice. she is the girl , wich all that is mean. Jajajaja but she is really Good.
And Pipe ojhh my Good jajajajajja he is really unique baby. He is ” personaje”. He is wild , Clever , smart. he is always pushing our limits.
I always talk to my friends and family because with my other kids know very well their limits. I know when they will do something wrong or i know if they would do such thing.
With Pipe i never know. I dont know what he is going to do.
He fall 20 time a day and he felt nothing. ( in One time i go to put a “vacuna”to him and Martina. She cry all the time and Pipe nothing. He was waiting to the woman to finish so we can leave. He has no pain).
He always push the limit. . He climb from his bed when he was 1 Year old., i Also have to change the bed ( which is from my husband when he was a baby, and wich i used it with my other 2 kids and stay in perfect way) because he eat it 🙈. Jajajjajjaj Yes eat it !!!!!!!
I never know his limit. I cant say with sure and certein he wouldnt do This o that thing. With my other kids i really know it.

I Also ever think the yongest would be the easyone because it suppose you have more “experience” but i absolutly wrong. He needs more look, we can’t get the eyes out from him.

I cant answear your question jajajajaa. I think like you maybe is a mix of lot of thing. Relax with discipline, being the youngest and constantly want to be watch.
But with all the poor thing he can do ( and he do ir a lot) i really love his personallity. He Is really Clever and funny. he really know his position in the family , and very time i try to discipline he do thing to Make me finally being laughing).
He do something wrong but always manage to have all the family integrants by his side. Jajajajajajajajjajaj
I think they know it. They came to the world with extra cheeck for sure.
Lot of Kisses
Gaby

Sorry for my english is not so Good


Louise
January 23, 2016

Never apologise for your English! A second language is a wonderful thing to have and a difficult thing to learn.

You English is pretty darn fantastic 🙂
Xx


Kristin
January 23, 2016

my theory is that each of us brings a ‘base’ parenting style with us (be it authoritarian, authoritative or permissive) and we deviate from that base differently with each child, as a response to their inborn temperament. While environmental factors are unique and varied, I don’t necessarily think the fourth receives less attention by default. My third commanded more attention (and received it!), leaving my first two more freedom to entertain themselves. my second was happy to fly under the radar, but also a little naughtier than her siblings. To this day, we find that we’re more authoritarian with her than we’d like because her behavior warrants it (for the record, I always fall inbetween permissive and authoritative. Authoritarian parenting does not come naturally to me! I think my ‘authoritarian’ parenting would be someone else’s permissive).


January 24, 2016

Courtney this is so interesting to me. I am constantly worried that my middle child (I have a 4 yr old boy, 2.5 yr d girl and 1 yr old girl) hasn’t had as much attention from me and that it’s affecting her negatively, it doesn’t help that she is definitely my “naughty” one (but of course it could just be the age right?!) I’ve been so worried that I’ve actually thought of persuading my husband to have a forth just to save her from the middle child fate!! On the youngest being the naughty one, I disprove your theory as I’m the youngest of four and definitely of the pleaser personality, always worried I’m in trouble and go out of my way to avoid it! In our family my oldest sister is the rebel! So fascinating, I really want to learn more about this, did you read a specific book you would recommend? Many thanks for raising this and sharing tales of Marlowe’s antics!


Ana
January 25, 2016

Hello!

If you can imagine this, I pulled up the Babyccino website so that I might email one of you regarding naughty behaviour (as well as some other stuff!). My nearly three year old boy is incredibly wilful and is always pushing. He also has a 7 month old sister. He loves to play with me, can be very sweet, is theatrical, imaginative but has recently become incredibly defiant during those moments when I really need him to try and listen. It seems he has this incredible need to stand his ground. What am I to do?? Is this his age, I wonder? Or the season? I am finding it incredibly trying as I am away from home and am finding myself really all tapped out! My daughter, Isabel, by contrast, is very calm and sweet (though I see a bit of sauciness too), inquisitive and smiles even when she’s not feeling well! They are both really lovely. Everyday, however, Jonah’s reactive behaviour is tiring me out more and more. When I think back to his babyhood, I can see then that he was strong-willed and spirited. These are beautiful traits but can be exhausting.


Maria
January 27, 2016

Dear Courtney,
This conversation is fascinating. I am a nanny. I can see this scenario with a slightly different approach as although I adore the children I work with, I am not the mother and I have an emotional distance in rapport to their parents. I strongly believe children are born with a special and unique personality. You can clearly see their personalities from an early age and it does define the way you work with them. But children are little sponges by nature and their behaviour is marked by the education the parents give them. And I am sorry to hurt some sensibilities but most of the time ( all the time) children are bad behaved because of their parents approach to discipline. In that respect I can see that Marlow is naughtier because she has the freedom to do it. I understand is difficult to be so black and white for parents sometimes but as a nanny I see it clearly. Is not right or wrong is just how it is. For instance, I work for a family of three and the oldest is the love of his mum. I can see it. And he is so cheeky.I have never said anything but is totally clear to me. He is incredibly cute and super smart and VERY naughty. His youngest brother is sweet too but has a different personality, more introspective. If the two of them were set in the same scenario, for instance cutting their hair, I am sure the eldest will be walking off with a ” oh dear don”t do that again, is dangerous and you can cut ear”( serious face with a laugh inside, he looks so funny!) and the younger one would have a ” that is very naughty , don’t you ver do it again! ” ( very serious face! looks at all the hair in the bedroom, so dangerous, now I have to take him to the hairdresser and is a very busy day)
I believe this attitude is just natural, as a mother you might not be aware of it but it does affect them in the long term and it does mark their boundaries. I don’t think it has to do with an oldest/ youngest dilemma – parents do become more confident as they have more children but in this conversation I do not believe that point is that relevant here. Is about the child’s personality and the parent’s approach to discipline according to it. And sometimes is just not fair but it is what it is.


Helena
January 30, 2016

I really enjoyed reading your post and all the comments because this is something my mum and I have been talking about a lot lately. I’m 18, 2nd of the family, with one older sister (20), a younger brother (14) and younger sister (12). I guess I’m the “shy” and more sensitive child of the family, especially compared to my older sister who has always been bolder and more defiant when it comes to rules. She was the typical teenager who wanted to party every weekend, argued a lot with my parents (and she still doesn’t always see eye to eye with them). However I also think my parents were stricter with her because she was the first child and they experienced all their “firsts” in parenting with her. Then I came along, much calmer, and more of an introvert, and my parents never really felt the need to act the same way with me as they had with my sister. My brother is a lot like me, so I guess with the two of us, they became more lenient and acted the same way with my younger sister.
I don’t remember my younger sister being extremely naughty but she’s always been a little cheeky (she used to go and pick cherry tomatoes alone in the garden and eat them, and then come back with stains all over her clothes and pretend as if nothing had happened) and has always loved being the center of attention and making us laugh. However, she has now entered her teenage years and it’s already quite noticeable (I find it much harder to relate to her now) and my parents have been having a hard time coping with it, I guess because they’re not used to having a real, stereotypical teen anymore!
I’ve also always felt that the order of siblings does influence things a little: the first child is the one parents experiment on through a process of trial and error. As a middle child, I feel like I’ve always been able to get away with much more than my older sister. And then the last one has the permanent “baby of the family” position and in my case, with all the older siblings currently “stable” in their routines and lives, now has most of my parents’ attention.


January 31, 2016

A topic I’ve often pondered! we have four: our oldest, Isabelle is 5; our fraternal twins (Sadie and Lukas) are 3; our youngest, Mateus is 1. Isabelle was VERY active in the womb, provoking my OB to warn us that she’d be a wild child 😳 and she most certainly is 😳😳 Lukas shares a few of her personality traits and is quite defiant and often melts down into tantrums. Sadie and our baby though are just the most easy-going children. I’ve always been fascinated by the differences in the twin personalities. Sadie often gets frustrated with Lukas’ antics, discipling him herself! Isabelle, now a bit older, still has wild outbursts and is very demanding of our attention. I think we parent them pretty similarly – and Isabelle’s temperament was apparent in the womb – I guess I favor nature over nurture in our case.


Anna
February 4, 2016

Courtney,
Your Marlow sounds like my Willow and she is my oldest. Since her birth she has been been difficult, strong willed and naughty. Don’t get me wrong, she has so so many wonderful qualities! But she knows how to get under me and my husband’s skin like no one else can. And I tend to notice when young girls are this way, they grow into be incredibly capable women! Though it can be quite a challenge to be their parents when they are young. Sometimes it feels exhausting to have a child who is relentless and who doesn’t take no for an answer. But I believe God made her this way for a reason. Perhaps these types of children are meant to be natural “leaders”.


Julie from Paris
May 22, 2016

Hi Courtney,
The subject of the personality in regard of the birth order is SUCH a fascinating one. I think that the link is very strong… maybe even more for the children who are not first-born. It is as if a type of personality was already “taken” by their older siblings, so they are “pushed” to find another one !
And something even more fascinating : I read recently that in a couple, we are often attracted by someone who has the same “birth order” than ourself. This is not systematic of course, but this “birth-rank-matching” is true for me and my man, and for a very large majority of couples around me !
And if I remember right, it worked also for you and Michael as you are both the eldest of large families ? Maybe not a coincidence ? 😉
That will be an interesting thing to witness what kind of person your children will choose when they’ll be grown-ups ! 😉


thefolia
May 16, 2017

All three of mine are so different but dynamics with my once baby and now middle changed with the birth of the third…for the better. He never associated himself as the baby and it bothered him tremendously that he was younger and couldn’t do the things his older brother could do. I think being seven and a big brother, he is where he wants to be and now everyone knows it. His curiosity gets him into mischief for sure but two years later and he is still a proud big brother showing his little sister the ropes.


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