This is the third in the series of articles about birth order. As we discussed in the previous two articles, the place a child holds in the family can impact on that child's self-image and also help create parts of his or her personality. In addition it can affect the way in which you or others interact with the child. If you haven't read the first two articles in this series (the first is an overview of birth order, and the second is a discussion of the oldest child) it would probably be a good idea to do so before reading this article. They can be found by clicking on the "other articles" tab on the menu...
Your feelings about your final child
In many different ways, the youngest child holds an interesting place in the family. Whether your youngest child is the second of two, or the last of eight children, most parents experience a strong feeling knowing this will be their last child. For some parents this feeling is sadness, for others it is relief. For still others it could be anxiety or even anger if they had wanted more children than this, but can't or won't have more for medical, emotional, financial or family related reasons. These feelings can impact on the way a parent treats a youngest child. For example, if you know you can't have any more children, you may treat your youngest with extra patience, or foster a sense of "babyhood" for longer than is necessary. This could impact on other members of the family, as well as on the child. In addition, depending upon your own place in your family's birth order, you may have great empathy for your youngest child (if you were the youngest) or you may harbor some impatience or resentment (if you were the oldest).
Your baby's behaviors
As the "baby" of the family, the youngest child may find him or herself the center of everyone's attention. This will undoubtedly affect the way the child feels and behaves. Many youngest children grow up to be attention seekers, enjoying activities, jobs and relationships in which they can shine. In fact, some youngest children find it difficult when they are not the center of attention. They may act out, sulk, cry or have a tantrum in order to get attention-which can be frustrating if it is someone else's turn to be in the spotlight. This may continue even after a child grows into adulthood, but then it won't be as obviously linked to sibling rivalry.
Some youngest siblings are blatantly indulged simply because they are the youngest. Parents feel that this is their last chance to lavish a child not only with attention, but with all manner of material things and activities. It is then, not hard to imagine that some youngest children become spoiled and their behavior is, of course, affected by this. They find it difficult when they don't get what they want and grow into what people outside of the family will, not very subtly (but truthfully), refer to as "spoiled brats."
Since they are used to being around lots of people, and have done so since birth, many youngest children are very social and enjoy being around people as much as possible. This can be trying at times for parents as youngest children may be very demanding of your time if there is not other child around to play with, or keep them occupied. However, it's hard to argue with having a child who is outgoing, friendly and chatty, even if it is exhausting some of the time.
In order to gain attention, and firmly establish their place in the family, youngest children need to be able to find unique ways to identify themselves. For this reason, they are frequently risk-takers and rebels. You may experience your youngest child as feisty and a bit of a smart aleck. This is his or her way of reminding you that being the youngest doesn't mean being the most invisible. Fortunately, for many youngest children, the "cuteness" factor outweighs the potential for being annoying.
For many parents, by the time they get to the youngest (even of two) they feel they have "mastered" being a parent. They are therefore more relaxed and less anxious. Needless to say, this affects the way they parent the youngest child in comparison to older children. Youngest children typically experience a greater sense of independence and freedom. Although, since they have one or more "mothers" and "fathers" disguised as older siblings, this doesn't necessarily mean they behave more independently. In fact, some youngest children don't want to be too independent because it will mean giving up that special place as the baby, which they so enjoy. They therefore allow their parents and older siblings to take care of and do things for them that they are actually capable of doing for themselves. This may or may not be a bad thing depending upon its severity and how everyone else in the family feels about it.
As with every child, your youngest will be challenging at times and, of course, wonderful at other times. As long as you do your best to learn about your child, make thoughtful parenting decisions and love all your children fully, your children will flourish and thrive happily.