Having a child affects the relationship dynamics in a family. And when you’ve got three kids, it’s easy for the one in the middle to feel ignored.
“A child can develop ‘middle child syndrome’ only when feeling left out by the family,” says Atasha K. “For example, your oldest does really well at school and gets ample attention over good grades and, well, baby is the baby. Your middle child may feel that they are not as important or loved as the other children.” Children suffering from “middle child syndrome” can become “detached, moody, and careless if they feel they are being forgotten or skipped over,” she adds.
Cindy K says her middle child “presents more challenges” than her other two. “He is an amazing little spirit, and I love him intensely, but no matter the situation I am always having to correct him or call him down. I want so much for him to be able to grow up successfully, but he pushes every situation to not be pleasant and I end up fussing at him so much more than his brother and sister! At school he does fine, not outstanding, but good. At home it's just constant irritation to every other member of the family!” she says.
If you, like Cindy, are looking for tips to prevent your middle child from developing the syndrome associated with his birth order, Circle of Moms offers the following suggestions.
1. Treat All Kids Fairly
Parenting experts and Circle of Moms members agree that the best way to prevent middle child syndrome is to pay equal attention to all of your children. Middle child syndrome “is caused by the parents being too involved with the older and younger siblings, and not making enough time for the middle child, or excluding them in other ways,” says a member who calls herself “Firebird Bedard” and says her childhood was a classic example.
She recalls when her parents bought a teddy bear for her little brother. The following week, they bought another bear for her sister, the oldest. The third week, they bought another teddy and gave this one to her brother again. “I cried, so my sister, always on the ball, offered me hers without a second thought. I thanked her but refused, saying that I already got her hand-me-down clothes, I don't want hand-me-down love, too.” Firebird says, “a series of events like this made me quite bitter toward my family for a long time. I was a rotten teenager who felt neglected and unloved.” On the other hand, she advises that if you, “Treat all of your children fairly and equally, you should easily be able to avoid middle child syndrome. If two of your kids get a teddy, make sure they all get a teddy.”
Mom Lucy F. agrees that “middle child syndrome does exist, but it is the result of parenting that falls short of the mark rather than something that just automatically happens." If you carry on dividing your love and attention equally between your three little ones, "then it’s likely your children will be fine," she says.
Keep reading for more tips.