Parenting the Middle Child
Somewhere in this world there is a brilliant psychologist that introduced the idea of “the middle child syndrome.” Perhaps it was in an attempt to earn some extra money from parents who were struggling with that middle child in their life. The truth is that it doesn’t take much figuring out or a degree in psychology to understand what is wrong with the middle child. They aren’t the oldest who gets tons of extra privileges and they certainly aren’t the baby (Although they were not long ago) who gets all the time and attention from mom and dad. So who are they? They are the child stuck in the middle of other kids who are seemingly “special” by birth order alone. They are the ones that resent the baby and will do just about anything to make him or her cry and who try to sneak in the middle of the couch when dad is sitting next to the older kid. Unfortunately, parenting the middle child is no different than parenting any other child and specific attention paid to their birth order will only create a problem; where really none should exist.
Is the middle child different? Certainly, but no more so than any other children. They have by no fault of their own been placed into the order of things where it is easy to get overlooked. For this reason, they may tend to act up a bit or strive to receive attention whether it is negative or positive. But parenting them differently just because they are the middle child no doubt engages adults in guilt parenting. This never produces good results. It is a fact that every child needs to be parented a bit differently. No matter what parents say they DO NOT have equal feelings about their children. Yes, they love them all and couldn’t imagine their life without them; but it is only normal to resonate with the kids in your life that are more like you or who can identify with your innate emotional deck of cards. Even so; no two children (not even twins) are alike and to parent effectively and brilliantly, parents must make amends in everything from the rules to their tone of voice in order to parent! This has absolutely nothing to do with birth order!
There is reason to assume that the middle child may have a slight identity crisis at times. After all, they have witnessed themselves being succinctly replaced by someone new and as we all know the new babies are time suckers. However, it is probably a healthy lesson to learn at some age that the entire world does not revolve around one person. As parents, it is easy to let each child know that they are significant and special through simple words or actions that can make this whole “middle child syndrome” obsolete. If a child is not adjusting well to a new sibling or seems to fight constantly with the older one; it may be time to think about how well they are being supported and loved. Children of all types, birth orders, sun signs, genders and personalities react quickly to the simplest thing in the world…parental love and admiration! Whether you are parenting the middle child or the 6th (bless you); proceed with love first.
More than likely what parents with more than 2 children (meaning there is a middle) need help with is balancing the attention that each child needs. IT is difficult to tend to every whim and request when the children begin to outnumber the adults, and many parents are just plain tired. By the time they have dealt with the homework from the older kids and the diaper changes and feedings of the baby; all they can think about is sleep or relaxation. The middle child deserves their spot. There really is no way to equal out time spent with the kids and it is even harder to make a child realize what is fair and what isn’t. Especially when there is an age difference. Whether it is the oldest, middle or youngest children that feel they are getting the short end of the stick; it has more to do with their emotions than birth order. It makes no sense that a child would behave as the 2nd or youngest child for 7 years and then suddenly; because a new child is born; take on qualities of middle child syndrome.
The best thing to do if you have a middle child (or any for that matter) is to take into consideration the amount of maintenance time they need to feel special. To make efforts to point out how they are special and to resist comparing them to any of the other children. It is also important to still be excited about all the firsts of the middle child. For many families, the firsts with the first kid is recorded and plastered in scrapbooks and pictures all over the house. When the second comes along, some of the excitement is gone and parents realize that there is more to life than snapping pictures of their kids. Although this has nothing to do with the actual middle child; chances are when the third comes they are old enough to realize that mom and dad don’t have pictures of her on the potty or eating their first slice of watermelon.
Parenting the middle child does not take any special resource or therapy to do well. Thinking about middle child syndrome only perpetuates it and parents need to realize that most of their personality traits and emotions were fairly inherent before the third kid came around. Perhaps they just didn’t have the need to show it yet. Large families or those with more than one kid actually are allowing their children to learn a lot about the world around them and how to deal with other people. Having siblings and feelings slighted from time to time allows children to realize what a treasure being with their folks and brothers or sisters really is. (Wont last long, don’t worry!) What they are going through, how they behave and the way they feel about the world has nothing to do with their birth order and is more importantly the grander picture of their personal make-up!