Do you like routine, order and knowing your place in the Universe? You know what I mean. Whether or not we realize it, most of us desire some semblance of order in our lives. Even those of us who say that we embrace chaos and live “crazy” unpredictable lives don’t like it when our world view forcibly changes. Imagine being six years old, an only child and your parents have another child. The very least that they could have done was to consult you. Did they? Oh, maybe they said something to you about have a little brother or sister but you didn’t know how that would forcibly change your world view. A new brother or sister? Great, you liked the new puppy so it’s probably going to be like that. Mom and Dad are happy and you get all excited until the Day it comes. I remember very clearly when my Mom’s water broke. I was taking a bath and I heard her yell to my Dad something about the water being broken. The water looked fine to me. I should have known, at that time, that this would be the first of many new changes to my world view.

While more couples are deciding to only have one child (11% in 1976 versus 22% in 2015) the family unit is also growing smaller with the number of families of four or more children declining from 40% to 14% as well (from 1976 to 2015). The age gap between children has also increased with the change in family units where both parents are working from one parent staying at home. An age gap of 4+ years appears to be an ideal time for working parents to have a second child. What I found most remarkable in my research regarding age gaps between child was the focus was primarily on the impact on the parents. The parental view is one in which the parents will be able to focus more on one child than the other “knowing” that the older child will “understand”, the self-sufficiency of the older child, etc. The basic idea is that an older child who has had the benefit of years of parental attention will be more able to handle the intrusion of a second child.

In reading the numerous reasons from one source after another I couldn’t help but remember old black and white media where the children didn’t behave like children but were dressed and acted like little adults.

How does a child in the early stages of childhood development (between 3 – 8 years of age) become this independent, self-sufficient, confident, logical, well-organized, mature, paragon of adulthood? No, that’s childhood, right? Does this confuse you? It confuses me that people would expect this from a child who’s just started childhood. The aforementioned qualities are hard to find in many adults. If this weren’t the case then why do so many job advertisements ask for many of these qualities in their search for an employee?

Let’s continue with this idea in mind and consider the types of communication required to form this perfect child. Let’s re-visit Brad, Janet, and Tim who is now four years old. As you may recall from Part Two Brad and Janet decided that they would raise Tim and discipline him through their words.

Unbeknownst to Tim, he was not always going to be an only child and so, from birth, his parents were overprotective, strict disciplinarians, who put a lot of pressure on Tim to be the best that he could be. Tim needed to be a “good” boy who did everything his parents wanted him to do in the way that his parents wanted it to be done. Tim was either “good” or “bad” and what he did was either “good” or “bad” or “right” or “wrong.” Brad and Janet kept their promise to not exercise corporal punishment in disciplining Tim. Instead, they thought that gently and logically explaining to him how he was “wrong” when he wanted to eat cereal with a fork, or how it was “bad” for him to knock over the card house before Janet saw it, were better than spanking him like when they were kids. Brad and Janet focused primarily on persuasive negative reinforcement to change Tim’s behavior.

When Brad and Janet decided to have another child they were confident that Tim could handle it without any problem. Afterall:

  • Tim spent most of his time alone in his room playing with his toys or in the backyard in the sandbox and making up games to play.
  • He was conscientious of his behavior, always confirming whether he was “doing it right” or not.
  • All of his toys were properly organized. He was so cute, he would give them a stern talking-to if he found them out of order.
  • Sometimes though, he would become upset when he couldn’t find one of his toys and had to have Janet or Brad help him locate it.
  • He was very smart and would sit quietly reading to himself.
  • He loved to draw and was very creative. He even picked up after himself gathering the crumbled and torn pages that had mistakes on them.

Overall, Brad and Janet were quite pleased with Tim. Although he was shy around other kids, they knew it was just a phase that he was going through. A little brother or sister would be just the company that he needed. They excitedly started to try for another child. Hopefully, they thought, another one just like Tim!

In the next part of this series, we will review Tim’s “perfect” behavior, introduce childhood disruption, and the conflict of communication that arises when changing from an only child world view to that of a firstborn world view.