Parentingideas Blog

Becoming better parents

Written & curated for parents by the Parentingideas team

Stuck in the middle - essential parenting ideas

Blog Post Teaser Image  
‘It’s not fair!’

Middle children are victims of bad timing.

Born too late to get the perks and privileges of their eldest sibling, but too early to get the easy ride that youngest receive, middles often feel squeezed between these two siblings and wonder, “Why me?”

The positive side to being squeezed between two siblings is that middle children generally develop a good set of people skills.

They usually learn to get on with others, negotiating with their eldest sibling and asserting themselves with their younger brother or sister.

Middle children never get the same brand of attention as first borns or youngest borns. Parents of three children frequently introduce their children saying, ‘This is our eldest boy Mark. Leah is the youngest. And this is Jessica!” Neither eldest nor youngest, you can bet that children born in the middle will be different

They spend more time than other children around friends than they do around family as they get older to compensate for any lack of attention. Middle children are most likely to leave the family first and make their own way in the world, even before their eldest sibling.

Adaptability is their trademark as from an early age they learn to fall into line with the life pattern set by the eldest.

Middle children are the most likely child to buck the family trend. If the family is full of sports stars the middle child is likely to think, “This sporty life is not for me. The others can work up a sweat if they like. I am heading for the beach.”

The key to raising middle children is that parents need to work hard to help them feel special. Middleness, or the idea of being squeezed between siblings is greatest when children are the same gender. A child who is a different gender than those surrounding him or her has a special place by default.

Here are three important strategies for raising middle children:

1. Never compare a second born to a sibling. Statements such as “Why can’t you keep your bedroom neat and tidy like your elder sister?” that are often muttered out of frustration only discourage kids. Sibling comparison shows a lack of understanding of the affects of birth order on children’s personality development. The second or middle looks above and if he sees a sibling who is smarter, faster or more capable then there is every chance that he or she will choose a different path. That’s the way of families.

2. Take notice of second borns and middles. Seconds can be secretive and keep their opinions to themselves so tread carefully and take the time to listen to seconds when they have something to say. Their voice often becomes lost in the crowd at home or they learn that the eldest takes up more of their parents’ time and energy.

3. Initiate one-on-one time. In a three child family second borns tend to spend less one-on-one time with their parents than the other two children. First borns have had their parents to themselves for the first period of their lives and youngests tend to spend more time in the company of parents when the older children have gone to school or moved onto different interests in adolescence. You may have to initiate some time with your child by inviting them along when you go shopping, watch some sporting activity together or even take them on an outing on their own. Sharing an interest or activity is one tangible way of forging a strong relationship with your second child

One final tip:  Make sure you take photos of just them, and not the whole gang. Parents have photo albums filled with pictures of eldests and youngests on their own, but very few of middles solo. Such is the way of life for middle children.

Subscribe for Blog updates