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7 Ways to Ease the Middle Child Syndrome


My husband and I are both the baby of our families, each with three children.  So when we decided to have our third child, we though things would be easy peasy.  Or second child, wasn't even two when we got pregnant so things seemed normal to us.  We had no idea what we were in for.

I always heard that about "the middle child syndrome" but never though it held any weight.  I used to think that it was just something parents said to give an excuse for that child's behavior.  Boy was I wrong.  They were right on all accounts.

Melissa and Doug
Our sweet middle child, now 5, isn't so sweet all the time.  She can be the happiest, friendliest and sweetest girl when she wants too.  Apparently, though, being the middle child is HARD.  She is always trying to get our attention, whether it be good or bad.  She can also be very mean to our oldest daughter (9), which drives her crazy.

A behind the scenes shot of my two girls together!

I had to have a conversation with our oldest about something I learned when I went to college for teaching.  I told her that her sister loves you, and looks up to you.  It may not seem like it with her actions, but she wants to be just like you, and thinks that you are so cool.  Therefore, she wants your attention.  She wants to be a part of your life, and wants you to give her time.  I tried to explain to my 9 year old that she seems to be giving her sister more (negative) attention when she is being bad.  So she is going to continue to be bad, knowing that she'll get that attention that she wants so bad.  I know it's hard for a 9 year old not to react to her bad behavior, but we are working on only giving attention when our 5 year old is acting good.  That way she will try to be good to get that desired attention.

It's a tough lesson to learn, especially for a kid.

Our middle child is also very stubborn.  She wants to do what she wants, when she wants, and she doesn't care what is asked of her.  Being her parents, we've learned how to navigate this pretty well though.  She is in a hard position because she wants to be able to do what her older sister can do, but she also wants to be the baby, which she isn't anymore.  It's a balance that she is working through, and for a child, that's really hard.

Here are 7 things that you can do with your middle child to help:

SPECIAL DAY - We take our oldest on our "date nights" with us a lot!  We go bowling or to the movies, or even just out to eat.  We realized, although our middle child doesn't say it, that she would want to do that too.  It's harder with her age, because we really want to do things that are fun for us too, if we're paying for a sitter.

That being said, we've started making it a point to have "dates" with just her too.  The last time we did it, we took her to the small children's museum in town, and then out to get frozen yogurt.  She absolutely loved it, getting Mommy and Daddy all to herself.  The funny thing is, though, she asked if her older sister could come with us next time, proof of how much she loves her.  It's important, though, that she gets days that are all about her.  This helps her know that she is just as special as the oldest, and the youngest.  It helps her understand that she is such an important part of this family, so much so that she gets her own day with us!

Related Article: Questions for a New Babysitter

MAKE ACCOMPLISHMENTS A BIG DEAL - It's easy to let accomplishments slide by without much knowledge.  With your first child, every little new thing gets praised and rewarded, because it's new to you as parents too.  It's critical though, that you are just as excited for the next child to complete those accomplishments as well.  And, to get your oldest on board to congratulate them.  I don't know how many times my middle child does something new, and my oldest lets us all know that she can already do that.  Each child is going to go through a lot of the same milestones, and each time, it needs to be acknowledged as amazing!

Related Article: Proud Mama: No More Pull-ups

ENCOURAGE THEIR DIFFERENCES - Don't compare your children.  This is hard to do, but they are each their own person, and you can't expect them to act the same.  Let your children know that they are special because of their differences.

GET NEW THINGS - The first child usually gets a lot of new things, and then those "things' get passed down to each kid.  Make sure all your children are receiving new things, at least some of the times. I know it's convenient to only use hand me downs, but they will feel very special if they get new clothes, toys, and even furniture!

Gymboree Kids Clothing Newborn to Size 12

HELP MAKE DECISIONS - Making family decisions will help them feel important.  Even if it's as simple as where to go for dinner, what color do you want your room, or what should we name the new dog? Having these "important" decisions will make them feel like an integral part of the family.

OWN ACTIVITIES - Again, they are their own person.  Let them chose what activities they want to do.  Our middle child wants to do what her older sister does, again, because she looks up to her so much, but she's also interested in dance.  We're not dance people at all, but she LOVES ballet, so we put her in ballet!  If they are in all the same activities, it may also lead to a lot of heated competition, which may get nasty when they get older.

Related Article: Why Ballet is Perfect for my Wild Child

HELP THEM FEEL UNIQUE - Talk with them about how they are special.  You are you beacause....  Our oldest is very shy, but not our middle child.  She knows all the teachers at her school and she says "Hi" to them whenever she sees them.  I let her know how special she is, because she is such a social butterfly, among other things.

What struggles do you have with your middle child?  Are there any tactics that you use that seem to work really well?  I'd love to hear them!!!





Comments

  1. This is great information a lot of parents should be reading this

    As for this its a wonderful post

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  2. I totally relate with this, mine actually started breaking stuffs like flower vase in the house just to get my attention, she became hostile to her older sibling. Throwing tantrums at any given opportunity, things suddenly changed when i started giving her loads of attention. Great post.

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    1. Oh no! We haven't thrown glass...yet. I can totally see her doing this!! I'm glad you can relate to this!

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  3. A well informed write up thanks for this piece of information

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  4. Waoo..! Thanks great info.

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  5. This is great information, I agree with making sure each child gets new things. Although I completely understand passing things down it is nice for them to get things that are their own and new.

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    1. It's so easy to fall into the habit of just using hand me downs. We really try to give each child their own things though! Thanks for commenting!

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  6. I love your tips. I'm not a mom but feel that these tips are good for any child

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    1. Absolutely. It's just hard with a middle child so these tips will work especially well with them! Thanks for visiting!

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  7. Love this! With 5 kids we feel as if we have two kids going through middle child syndrome- one of which is our five year old daughter too! I think we might try implementing date night too! Thank you for the idea!

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    1. Oh I can't even imagine 2 going through this!!! Date night works really well. We need to do that one again as well!

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  8. Not comparing your children is huge! It's amazing how different siblings can be. Can't compare apples to oranges :)

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    1. My oldest, and middle child are so different. It's great seeing their personalities form!

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  9. Being the middle child does come as a challenge. You can feel like you're neither here nor there. So knowing how to deal with one is definitely helpful.

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    1. It's hard because I wasn't a middle child, so I don't really know the feeling. We just do our best though, and find what works!

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  10. Such an interesting read. I'm an only child so I'm pretty clueless when it comes to this. My fiance is the youngest of two and there's such a difference between me and him which is very much tied in to how we were raised as children.

    Kimberly
    www.brunchandgloss.com

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    1. It's amazing how people can be raised differently! My husband and I were both the babies, with our brothers being much older, but still, we were raised completely differently.

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  11. This is really interesting to read. For someone with only one child I've often thought about how it would be how to raise another. My husband is the youngest out of four and he has told me his experiences of being the youngest. Great article. :)

    Mookie
    Mookieslife

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    1. It's definitely different than having only one! I loved when we just had one, but I love having 3 also. Whatever number you chose will be great!

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  12. Such a great read, many of these tips will come handy when we have other kids.

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    1. I'm glad it will help! Thanks for visiting.

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  13. Great information and lots of helpful tips for parents with youngsters, the challenges are just beginning so it is important to maintain those habits well into their teens.

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    1. Thank you. Yes, I'm curious how this "middle child syndrome" will play out when they are in highshool!

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  14. Oh middle child syndrome! I'm the baby, but I know just the behavior you're describing! You nailed it. Thanks for the great post and for helping raise more good humans for the world! Great post Sarah.

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  15. parents must read your blog a good work again thanks

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  16. Im a middle child! This is a great post and every parent needs to read it

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  17. wow! These are tips that every parent should read. Parenting is a hard job and I think these tips would be very useful.
    KenyanBookJunkie

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    1. I hope they'll help others! Thanks for visiting.

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  18. When my husband and I discussed having children we agreed on two just to avoid the middle child syndrome. I am the youngest and he is the oldest so neither of us know what it is like!

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    1. That's a good plan! We wanted more kids actually but then we realized how crazy that would be. LOL We're happy with our 3, and hope that the middle child syndrome is just a phase.

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  19. This is a great post! I do believe that we need to be more sensitive to the middle child. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. It's just a different way of navigating their emotions. As parents, you learn how each child reacts to different situations.

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  20. I am a middle child and I can tell you this is spot on advice!

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    1. I'm so glad you agree with it. I'm only going off my experience with my daughter, but I myself was the baby of the family. Thanks for commenting!

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  21. These are brilliant tips, you sound like a great mother ☺

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  22. My middle daughter was the easiest of the bunch! I used to say "everybody should own a Lauren" because of how awesome she was. We never butted heads, she was always so even keeled...the only time we really ever went at it was when she was a teenager. But I think every parent goes through that, when kids are growing up and finding their own way. She's 20 now, and she's still pretty awesome and I am so lucky to have this kid in my life.

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    1. That's awesome! Every family is different for sure. Our middle one is by far our hardest, but I know she'll grow out of it in time ( at least I hope so!)

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