Family business truths… first – birth order

I am writing from a blah hotel room in an otherwise amazing place, INSEAD, in Fontainbleau, about an hour from Paris. I am here because my sister Cyrille had the inspiration to sign up for a weeklong family business seminar back in March – the INSEAD Family Business Challenge. She kindly invited my sisters and I to attend, invitation which I had to admit we at first politely rebuffed. But that was back in March. My dad loved the idea, and little by little the rest of us were rallied to the cause. I am here wtih two of my three sisters (Roxane is in medical school and could not miss class), my father, and my (new) brother-in-law Guillaume, who celebrated is one-month wedding anniversary yesterday, away from his bride Roxane.
The amount of information, content, and stimulation that we have all received (we are about 70ish participants, representing 12 families, attending this program that started in 2000) is so intense that this morning the only thing my sisters and I talked about were the most vivid dreams we had last night. We agreed our brains were sore.
This afternoon, the program centered on genograms, and understanding family patterns and birth orders. Here is what we learned (all facts supported by various studies and presented today by our two professors):
Every family member grows up in a different family. This is due to:
– Changing family demographics
– Evolutions in parents’ parenting style, careers, and relationships
– Family size and expanding or contracting
– Life events
– Larger social, political, or economic contexts
– There is apparently truth to the science of birth orders…
First borns: 
– The oldest children have all of the uncertainties of parents
– At some point each first born is unique
– First borns benefit from the rules of primogeniture and sunk costs and are:
– Assertive, dominant, responsible
– Organized, structured, perfectionists
– First borns have higher IQs because of their parents’ full attention in their early years and thus are:
– Ambitious, achievement-oriented
– Drawn to graduate degrees because they want their parents’ recognition (drawn to professions such as law, accounting, and science)
– The first-born is photographed more often and more naked than a Hollywood starlet
– The first-born is the child with whom you hope not to make the same mistakes your parents did, though, of course, you inevitable willOnly
– Are self-sufficient but not independent
– Are not good at sharing toys
– Like adult interaction and attention
– Are the first and the latter born at the same timeMiddle born children: 
– Struggle to be needed
– Are independent, mysterious, difficult to understand
– Are peace-makers, mediators, negotiators
– Are empathetic
– Have richer external relationships
– Are drawn to professions such as management, counseling, mediationLatter born children (the youngest):
– Get by with their personalities
– Are drawn to professions such as sales, advertising, entertainment
– Tend to be entrepreneurs
– Are wilder, more care-free, easy-going, absent-minded
– Are creative, innovative, funny “class clowns”
– Are risk-takers because of a de-identification from older siblings (they only receive 50% of the reward for equaling an older sibling)

Beyond birth order, we discussed the importance of sibling relationships – in all families, but as being particularly important to business families. Siblings are:
– The longest-lasting relationships you have in your life
– Sometimes considered a second-class relationship – because we have two parents, one spouse, and usually many siblings – but this is not the case!
– Essential because our early real time learning about interpersonal relationships and issues such as love, secrets, conflicts, honesty, compromise, avoidance all get learned with and from siblings first

Apparently, siblings fight from a very young age. Consider this:
– Siblings under 6 experience 9.5 fights per hour
– 95% of young children fight about stuff (stuff, toys, space, clothing, attention)
– Even in young children, fights are about control
And guess what older siblings fight about? Control…
And with that, class ended, and we went into our family meetings to discuss out family values and whether or not we alll fit the sibling order genotype. We worked, we laughed, we opened up to each other, and then we went to dinner and laughed some more. Mostly, we laughed about how true this all is…


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