In families with more than two children, middle child syndrome is a common occurrence. Characterized by a middle child’s feelings of inadequacy and neglect, this phenomenon can lead to serious problems concerning behavior and psychological health. And while many parents write off middle child syndrome as a non-issue, the fact remains that birth order has been shown to strongly influence an individual’s character and emotional development. Thankfully, this influence doesn’t always have to be negative. Tips like the following, for example, will help parents promote good self-esteem and emotional health in their middle children.
Encourage Your Middle Child’s Uniqueness
All children are different. Instead of making comparisons between a middle child and her siblings, celebrate those differences and encourage your child’s individuality. For example, if an older sibling is a math whiz, never say things like, “If you study harder, you could be great at math, too!” While these types of comments may seem supportive and positive, they may lead to feelings of inadequacy. Instead, praise your middle child for her own accomplishments. Focus on her interests and activities, foster her creativity, and always encourage her to be her absolute best.
Make Special Time for Your Middle Child
Middle children often get lost in the shuffle. A good way to prevent this is by setting aside separate alone time for each of your children. For example, once a month, schedule a date with your middle child. Choose an activity that interests your child and give her your undivided attention. These dates will show your middle child that she’s special and that you genuinely enjoy spending time with her.
Dote on Your Middle Child
In many families, first and last children get most of the attention. For example, new parents take countless photos of their firstborn and spend an inordinate amount of time doting on the baby of the family. This can make the middle child feel excluded, which can lead to major problems down the road. Children who feel left out often resort to behavioral problems as a means of getting the attention they need. However, this can be easily avoided by making sure your middle child gets all the positive attention she deserves. A few great ways to do this include recognizing and celebrating each of her achievements, giving her genuine (not comparative) praise, showing up for all of her extracurricular events, and capturing tons of memories via photo and video.
Give Your Middle Child a Voice
Because middle children can be more quiet and reserved than their siblings, their voices and opinions can go unheard. To avoid leaving your middle child feeling like the odd man out, encourage her to take part in family decisions and activities. When it’s time for a night of family fun, for example, make sure your middle child has a say in decisions such as dinner, games, movies, etc. This will let her know her thoughts and opinions matter and that she’s just as much a part of the family as everyone else.
Stand Up for Your Middle Child
Being the quiet ones in the family, middle children often get overruled by their siblings when it comes to things like toys, bedrooms, activities and more. Many parents chalk this up to their middle child’s desire to avoid conflict; however, constantly taking a backseat isn’t healthy for anyone. To ensure equality among siblings, parents may need to step in and stand up for middle children. When older and younger siblings see that bullying or overpowering middle children will not be tolerated, they often curb these behaviors in favor of getting along. Thankfully, while these types of interventions may not always be pleasant, they are usually advantageous for the family as a whole and not just for the middle child.
Get to Know Your Middle Child
As parents, we often focus on our children’s safety, health and happiness. It happens too often that parents, even those with the very best of intentions, never really get to know their children on a personal level. With middle children, this is even more common. To avoid this, make a real attempt to get to know your middle child. Ask about her hobbies and her friends and the type of music, movies and books she likes. Encourage her to open up about her hopes, dreams and plans for the future. By making an effort to know and understand your middle child, you can forge a closer bond and make her feel special and appreciated.