Being the middle child is living between a rock and a hard place. While your firstborn has already had the benefit of years of attention, and your youngest child needs more from you, your middle child may feel a little left out. This can lead to middle children acting up or going out of their way to be a people pleaser in order to garner attention. Middle children often feel that life is unfair and this fosters sibling rivalry and resentment. But there are ways to overcome the middle child syndrome and raise a happy, healthy child.
Be their biggest supporter
Try to show as much enthusiasm for each of your children’s events, even though you may be less excited about the third ballet recital as you were about the first one. Displaying fairness will help to alleviate some of the injustice that middle children feel. Whenever possible, divide your time and energy equally between the events, projects and sports that your children are involved in.
Spend some quality time
Once a month, arrange a special activity that is just for you and your middle child. My friend Bill has three daughters and he takes each of them to Sunday brunch each month. Over pancake stacks or waffles, they catch up on each other’s lives and spend quality time together. The girls love these ‘daddy days’ so much, that they insisted on keeping the tradition alive until they moved away to attend college. It can be difficult to always find the time, but keeping in touch will help your middle child to feel important.
Doling out decisions
One of the best ways to fight feelings that life is unfair is to share decisions. Each child gets a turn to decide which movie to watch, dessert to eat or which radio station to listen to. You can also help to forge a stronger bond between your middle and youngest child by asking your middle child to make some decisions about their younger sibling like choosing a toy for them or which book you should read them before bed.
Talk about it
Ask your middle child how they feel about their role in the family and what you can do to help. Keeping the lines of communication open is essential, even if your questions go unanswered. It doesn’t matter if you only get an ‘I don’t know’ or a shrug of the shoulders, continuing to ask questions will show that you are interested.
It’s a family affair
It’s natural for family members to dote on the younger sibling or give older children more responsibility. Middle children often act up and this may exacerbate the fact that the other children get more positive attention. When you notice this happening, ask family members to treat all of the children equally or to spend a little more time with your middle child.
While it may take some time for you and your family to adjust to new additions, by being fair and attentive, you can raise a really happy middle child.