The middle child syndrome refers to the deep-rooted feelings and thoughts possessed by the middle child. This is typically associated with the nagging worries and frustrations of being a forgettable or unspectacular person. The syndrome is worsened through comparisons with the novel accomplishments and privileges of the firstborn and the indulgences afforded to the baby of the house.
The middle child is constantly trying to win the attention and praise of parents and the people around them. This leads to a lifelong desire to stand out in various stages and aspects of life. Fear of exclusion is an underlying theme in most theories of middle child syndrome.
Although middle child syndrome might suggest that the affected child is destined to become an overachiever, this isn’t always true. Some individuals might lack the drive to reach their fullest potential due to the faulty mindset that nothing is ever enough. Their defeatist mentality might also lead to a plethora of social problems, such as poor decision-making skills and a crippling lack of confidence. In serious cases, such emotional fragility may lead to self-harm or antisocial behavior.
Skeptical parents might think that the Middle Child Syndrome is merely a figment of imagination or something concocted by a creative self-help author. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. Middle Child Syndrome is as real as the teething issues of babies and the growing pains of adolescence.
Therefore, it lies upon the shoulders of loved ones, such as parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, and guardians, to ensure that the middle child is brought up with adequate care and moral support. At the very least, adults should avoid prejudice or favoritism to create a fair and enjoyable playing field for the middle child.
Middle Child Syndrome Might be Inevitable
Humans go through many steps in the developmental process. We start off as newborns, who develop into infants, toddlers, preschoolers, tweenagers, teenagers, and so on. There is no scientific evidence as to which stage Middle Child Syndrome is most likely to occur. Guardians should keep a close watch of the behaviors and reactions of the middle child to determine if the syndrome is present.
Also, caregivers shouldn’t always blame themselves. Your child might develop Middle Child Syndrome due to faulty reasoning skills, even if they’re given the same set of privileges as their siblings. In such cases, it is important for caregivers to integrate positive language when communicating with their middle child and to involve them in as many family activities as possible. The main aim is to eliminate the middle child’s nagging feeling of isolation, or of being unwanted and unappreciated.
Apply Positive Language
Language manifests in two main forms: spoken and tacit (body language). Caregivers should ensure that both forms of language are kept positive when communicating with children. Never ever disregard the “cold shoulder” that is given to a child when you deny a request or ignore a question. Children are more perceptive than adults, hence more emotionally sensitive, as they are still making sense of the social world around them.
If you’re preoccupied when approached by your child, kindly inform them that you’ll get back to them once you’ve completed your task. Remember, a promise is a promise. If you gave your word, you must stick by it. Don’t go jumping onto the next task, hoping that your child will forget all about it. Chances are, you’ll be called out; children have an excellent memory. The worst part is that your actions will undermine the level of trust between you, which is crucial – especially for the sensitive middle child.
Additionally, children are like sponges, they will effectively absorb the words and actions of people around them. If you’re constantly running back from your promise, they’ll think of it as the norm.
Use positive words of empowerment to build the self-esteem of your child. Statements like, “you’re doing well, keep it up”, “I’m proud of you”, and “I love you”, are simple but instrumental toward establishing confidence. However, take heed to not flood children with compliments, this may backfire in two ways. One, they may grow arrogant or complacent, and two, your compliments might start to lose their impact. Moderation is key.
Tacit language is also indispensable. A simple pat on the back or hug can convey a stronger message of acceptance than a thousand words. Also, they can enhance the effectiveness of a compliment when timed properly. On the other hand, avoid cold wars, “death stares”, and any other form of aggressive expression- unless you’re reprimanding them for a perfectly good reason. And even so, don’t make a habit out of it and never harp on an issue.
Language is most powerful when your child is under distress – i.e. when they’re unwell, injured, and/or scared. Periods of distress are when children need their caregivers the most. The less helpless they are, the greater their sense of belonging and appreciation.
While the use of positive language benefits any child, it is particularly effective for children facing Middle Child Syndrome. The first step to taking them out of their sphere of seclusion is by extending an arm through acceptance and understanding.
Inculcate the Values of Teamwork
Teamwork is one way to eliminate Middle Child Syndrome. Through a sense of belonging, the middle child will cease to feel alienated from his siblings and peers. Caregivers can achieve this by presenting ample opportunities for teamwork among siblings. This could be as simple as setting up an inflatable pool. For example, each sibling may be tasked to inflate a section. The siblings can then proceed to enjoy the “fruits of their labor” with some water play.
Baking is another good opportunity to foster harmonious teamwork among siblings. You could entrust one child with beating the eggs, one with kneading the dough, and another with forming the dough into shapes.
Also, ensure that each task is fairly assigned. Avoid situations that may result in favoritism, i.e. one child enjoys the delectable role of chief food taster while the other two get their hands dirty in the meal prep.
Teamwork that is fostered through early childhood is likely to be carried unto adulthood, leading to long-lasting bonds among siblings. Prevention is better than cure. Caregivers should strengthen the bonds of siblings from the get-go rather than fix the problems that arise from poor relationships.
Fairness is the anti-venom or vaccination to the effects of Middle Child Syndrome. Unfortunately, nobody is capable of turning back time. Parents can’t balance out the privileges offered to the first child – each subsequent child is conceived during a different phase of life, with its unique set of obligations and financial standards. However, caregivers have some control over how they’re going to react to the next child.
For example, if the first child was given the opportunity to enjoy fun preschool extra-curriculum classes, so should subsequent children. If the first child was provided with a solid trust fund, the same should apply for the rest. There should be equality in place right from the start – the middle child is likely to realize these things in time.
Remember, one major conflict faced by the middle child is that they’ve had limited time to be fawned over by the adults until the youngest one mosies along to steal the limelight (probably permanently). The eldest one, however, has probably gotten over the fact that the world is greater than the self.
The best way to remove any complications in the upbringing of your children is by nipping it in the bud. Healthy competition is good, but there should never come a point where a child feels like they’re in a disadvantageous position.
The Long-term Implications of Middle Child Syndrome
It isn’t a good idea to ignore the effects of Middle Child Syndrome, considering how it hampers many aspects of a person’s livelihood. Individuals who face Middle Child Syndrome may try harder than most to win the favor of others. They might also overcompensate for lost times (when they felt they were being shortchanged or overlooked) and engage in selfish practices while bearing little empathy for others. As such, they might find themselves vulnerable to vices and bad company, which trick them through honeyed words and false promises.
Although the APA defines the syndrome as a hypothetical condition, there have been various behavioral patterns linked to the “middle-born”. For example, when well-brought-up, they’re known to be effective communicators and mediators. They may serve as a bridge between the entitled firstborn and the pampered baby of the house. The world celebrates Middle Child Day on August 12 of each year that pays homage to these incredible individuals.
Middle children have been known to become extremely successful, with the likes of Madonna, Warren Buffet, and Bill Gates.The right amount of care, love, and support will ensure that your child has something special to share with the world – there is no middle ground to it.