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Q •  Why do all four of my children have such different personalities? I used to know what they liked and why. Now, it seems as if everything has been turned into either an argument or a competition. My mom says I need to pay attention to their birth order. Does this really have anything to do with our situation?

From a reader • I was the second-born and last child my parents had and was definitely always trying to get attention from them as well as competing with my “perfect” sister. I heard “why can't you be more like your sister” so often, I started acting out by the time I was 6. It only got worse as I got older. I was quite determined to get attention from not only my parents and sister but also from anyone, which really got out of hand once I became a sophomore in high school. Whatever you do, please pay attention to the birth order of your kids. It'll not only help you but also them. It's never too late to research it and start making immediate adjustments in your parenting. — G.M. in Atlanta

From Jodie Lynn • Once children reach a certain age, they're almost always going to be more competitive and more likely to argue between themselves, with parents, with other people and with other kids, especially in the teen years.

Birth order is certainly an interesting subject. Once you become familiar with it and apply it to your individual kids, it could help in many ways, but it has the potential to also make things a tad murky.

For example, sibling rivalry will always be around, and there will always be competition and arguing, at least while they all live under the same roof.

This will sometimes begin to mellow out as they become adults, but not always.

Most of us to this day will still compete and have intense conversations with our siblings.

However, we usually know when to side-step a touchy topic as well as leave the bragging rights to those siblings who insist on doing so.

While I think birth order can help elucidate some of the thinking patterns and actions of children, I'm not sure it'll solve all of your current challenges.

However, if you combine it with the ages and stages of each one (psychological, physical, etc.) you might be better armed with substantial information that would help with parenting your children. Just remember, some kids lag behind or are ahead of what their age and stage info states.

Don't become frustrated if you have to reread a few key paragraphs over and over before it actually makes sense or until you think it can be applied.

After all, you're going to be researching and comprehending a pile of information on four kids.

It's going to take a mountain of work, research and time, so be prepared by planning for it and keeping a lot of notes.

CAN YOU HELP?

We have three children including a new baby. The older ones really eat a lot. What are some ways to cut down on our grocery bill and also encourage them not to throw out uneaten food? Any suggestions on how to possibly create something new out of leftovers?

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Jodie Lynn is an award-winning parenting columnist, author of five books and mother to three children. She and her family live in Wildwood.