7 Habits of Highly Effective Older Sisters

So tough cookies, most-of-the-world: looks like all those trendy articles about the psychological significance of birth order are preaching the truth. According to a recent study at Scientific American, firstborn girls tend to be the most ambitious and the most likely to succeed – despite being the guinea pigs for their parents. Don’t believe me? Here’s an abbreviated list of fantastic firstborns: Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Beyonce, the list goes on.

But what is the oldest kids’ “recipe for success?” The study doesn’t offer much in the way of what-makes-a-firstborn-tick. Do we have rules of order? Can the other siblings ever hope to reach our great, great heights? Fear not, readers – I, a magnificent firstborn, have compiled this list of the seven highly effective habits of older sibs. For those of you who were a firstborn, wish you were a firstborn, or (most likely) were tormented by a firstborn, take note. An effective firstborn will typically…

  1. Have imaginary friends before the real ones arrive. Though those first few years before the new baby comes can be blissful Me time with the parents, it gets lonely at the top. A firstborn might crave other kids, in their way – but because they arrive on earth already believing they’re the most important person in a room, a firstborn is totally comfortable inventing worshippers. I, for instance, used to move around in a crew of several imaginary friends: Michael, Olivia, Sandra, David, the other Michael, the other Olivia…this worried my parents, but defined those early inklings of power-hunger.
  • Tell their younger siblings little white lies. Using the same audacious spirit that allowed them to MAKE UP FRIENDS, a firstborn learns early that they can tell the smaller kids almost anything and the saps will believe it. A successful firstborn will learn to use this manipulative power for good (think rhetoric in a campaign speech), but a less successful one may just be annoying. For instance: a certain someone may have told her younger brother and sister that “Diplomats” were people who stole kids out of their family cars in gas stations, leading to those younger siblings’ lifelong fear of the United Nations.
  • Take on the role of protagonist in all make-believe games.You know the recent #BANBOSSY campaign? We firstborns were largely behind both the applications for and arguments against that iffy term. An older sib was always content to domineer playtime, meaning play the star. If the game was tag, the firstborn was always ‘It.’
  • Continue to play the mother hen as they grow up.  A firstborn, on reaching high school and college, may find new and exciting ways to crowd-source. They might run for SGA, or lead the daily announcements, or take over the drama club. Whichever path they choose, the oldest sib will aim to excel, assuming-as-she-does that all the people around her require her guidance.
  • Delegate inside committees. But heavy is the head that wears the crown! An effective firstborn will learn fast to distribute power, or perish. They’ll surround themselves with intelligent supporters, who are content out of the limelight but still good at their jobs.
  • Eventually realize that they are not the center of the universe. Grace and humility can come late to a firstborn, so when these traits arrive they can be hard to bear. Perhaps they are overlooked for an award or job one day. Perhaps they must contend with the startling fact of their younger siblings’ successes, which will make them realize that even the family babies are capable of becoming exciting, lovely people. Once they realize that being the star isn’t everything, they’ll need to recalibrate certain values. Such as: would they rather be feared, or respected? Liked, or trusted?
  • Find a balance and learn from their mistakes. And finally, in order to retain both a sense of perspective and a healthy dose of ambition, the firstborn will need to find the middle-ground between being a bossyboots and being a sap. They’ll need to strike a harmony between ambition and love for their fellow human. Then, only then, will they inherit the earth.
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