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Book Review–The Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman

birth order book

Title:  The Birth Order Book:  Why You Are the Way You Are

Author:  Dr. Kevin Leman

Publisher:  Revell

ISBN:  080075977X

Length:  362 pages

Synopsis:  This is a conversational, anecdotal book that attempts to get inside the head of children and adults based on their birth orders.  With a blend of popular psychology and family counseling (and just an occasional hint of scholarly psychology), Dr. Leman approaches the birth orders (first, middle child, baby) and many of the combinations thereof and explains why we behave the way we do.  The book is big on application; Dr. Leman shows how birth order applies to the business world, marriage, our own approaches as parents.  In other words, our careers and how we deal with our own spouses and children are a factor of our birth order.  While much of the information in the book has reached the point of stereotype in today’s talk-show psychology ridden world, Dr. Leman does a good job of explaining the whys behind the characteristics.

My Thoughts:  I usually do not like books written in a conversational tone; often, I find them difficult to follow.  (I’m sure this probably says something about me as a first-born.)  However, this book manages to both be informative and entertaining without losing its message.  The parts that are of most interest to me are those about first-born children (I am one) and the part about raising two children (I have two).  In fact, Dr. Leman seems to spend more time, or at least more emphatic energy, on the first-borns.  (Or maybe it just seems that way to me because I identify so much with what he says.)  The overall message I got from what he says is this:  

  • First borns tend to be perfectionists
  • As a first born parent, I should lighten up, especially on my own first born
  • In other words, I should embrace my own IMPERFECTION!

For some reason, it was burden-lifting and freeing for me to recognize my own perfectionism and realize that it is detrimental to both me and my children.  I have had an unhealthy obsession with being a perfect parent, and I recognize so much of myself in my children, especially Lulu.  This combination of things has led to a lot of mental stress for me.  Simply recognizing this has made me feel that I have more of a handle on it.  I’m really glad I read this book.  The following are a couple of passages that really hit home with me:

Jesus told Peter that he should forgive seventy times seven (meaning indefinitely).  No one leads to learn about forgiveness more than the critical-eyed parent who pursues perfection.  You may do it politely and sweetly but, as you enforce your perfectionistic will on your children, are you showing them forgiveness for their mistakes or are you judging them (all in the name of trying to help them, of course)?

It also helps to remember that all children need encouragement more than prodding.  Learn to simply hold your child when he or she is having problems.  Just say, “Everything’s going to be okay.  What’s the problem?  Do you say this isn’t working out right?  Would you like me to help?”

No matter your birth order, this is an interesting and helpful book.


7 Responses

  1. […] The Birth Order Book by Kevin Leman (finished […]

  2. I, too, am a first born child and your post really made me think. i am going to have to look into getting this book! I am harder on my firstborn..just like you said in your post! She is my only girl, smart and social and I am always pretty demanding of her. Thank you for this post. i am glad i saw it and will look into this book! 🙂

  3. I dropped by from Saturday Review.

    I’m familiar with this book, but haven’t read it. I enjoyed the synopsis and your thoughts. It was a good reminder for me to lighten up. 🙂

  4. I’m in the perfectionist club too, though not a firstborn. (Though I am the first daughter. So there you go.) But there’s nothing like being a parent to make one realize we’re FAR from perfect! I’m beginning to realize that the best gift I can give my kids is not perfection, but humility– the humility of acknowledging when I blow it, and apologizing to them. (This is something that wasn’t modeled for me as a child.) They’re amazingly gracious little people, and they’re able to handle my failures without giving up on me as long as I’m real with them.

    Wow, I went on and on. I guess I’m not a perfect (i.e. succinct) blog commenter either. 🙂

  5. This book was on my TBR list last year and somehow was removed. You’ve reminded me of it. I, too, am a first born and know exactly what you are talking about.

    I still need to find this book!

  6. […] old artificial tree this year.  I must admit that I like the perfection of it.  Sigh.  Will the perfectionist in me never be silenced?  However, while I am a perfectionist, I am also a sucker for fun family events, […]

  7. […] understatement.  Overachiever?  Check.   Hard worker?  Check.  Perfectionist?  Check.  When I read The Birth Order Book last year, I was quite intrigued and amused by how often it seemed to me that Kevin Leman got this birth […]

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