Thursday, August 1, 2019

Is birth order a factor?

Hi Dave,
Thank you for all of your information on the subject of anger overload.  It completely describes my youngest son (6.5 years old).  As the youngest of three (I have an 11 year old son and a 9 year old daughter), the frustration of being the youngest really seems to be a trigger for him.  He does not like when he can't do the same things as his siblings. For example, he had a 40 minute tantrum at an amusement park when he wasn't tall enough to ride a roller coaster, despite us preparing him that this may be a possibility.  I was just curious to know if you have found birth order to play a role in anger overload.  And, if so, how can we address this?

Additionally, do you suggest a therapist working with the entire family, including all siblings? I'm currently searching for a therapist and would like to have a good idea what to expect.

Hi, I have found a correlation with personality, but not yet birth order.  Some children are more insistent and more emotional.  These qualities put them at risk for anger overload.  But keep in mind that these qualities of determination and emotionality also have positive aspects. Determination correlates with assertiveness and with not giving up when challenged.  Emotional expression can make it easier for people to empathize with what someone is going through. 

But determination and emotionality can also lead to a tantrum when you are not tall enough yet for a roller coaster!  Is there another cool ride that he can go on while his siblings do their ride? Or have a special food treat?  Also try sharing with him if this happened to you when you were young. Empathize, in other words, about how hard it is to not be allowed on the ride.  These suggestions may help a little, but for big disappointments, you may have to wait until he is calmer to reason with him. You did a good job by trying to reassure him in advance.  

Family therapy can be done with the whole family or with part at a time.  It depends in part on what the issues are and on everyone's availability.  If there are conflicts with the siblings, it would be helpful to have everyone come. If the issues do not involve his siblings or if your son would feel embarrassed or out numbered, he may do better without his sibs being there.

Best, Dr. Dave Gottlieb

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