Middle Child Syndrome
Much importance is attached to the birth of the first and the last child. Firstborn children tend to be placed on a pedestal while the last born child is often pampered and coddled, leaving the middle child to, possibly, get lost in the shuffle. Middle children often feel ignored and unwanted, they may feel like they don't belong. Keep in mind that a middle child is any of your children that are not the first or the last born.
How do we help all of our children feel equally wanted and loved?
- This one is simple. Tell him you love him. Do it on a daily basis. Whenever my children went out the door to go to school or play or whatever I would say, "Bye honey, I love you." It's important to make eye contact so they know you really mean it.
- Show affection regularly. Be a kissy- huggy family. Nothing says "I love you" like a good bear hug.
- Take time to listen. If you really listen to her in everyday communications, it will convey to her that what she has to say matters and she will be more likely to come to you when she has a problem.
- Read to your child. When my children were young my pediatrician said to me, "If you want your children to stay away from the bad things in life like drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy, etc. just take the time each day to read to them." This daily attention will help them feel loved and bolster their self esteem.
- Put a picture of your child with family members next to her bed. This is a subtle reminder to your child that she has family support and that she is not alone in the world.
- Be generous with praise. Give praise frequently and honestly. Get in the habit of looking for situations in which your child is doing a good job or displaying a talent and praise him for it. Be specific. Rather than saying, "You're a good artist" (which is okay sometimes) say, "I love the way you painted those trees, they look so realistic!". The positive (as well as the negative) things we say to our children are recorded in their brains and they "replay" them over and over throughout their entire lives. Remember it takes only 20 seconds to make someone's day.
- Go on "dates" regularly with each child. Plan one-on-one time with each child. Take each child, individually, to the park, out to lunch, even grocery shopping. When I was a child my mom would take a different child grocery shopping each week and we would get to chose the flavor of ice cream for the week. We felt so special! Also, plan two-on-one dates with each child. Call in a babysitter while you and your spouse take a child to dinner or a movie. How great would that be?!
- Let him help you. A child especially loves to help mom cook or make a craft project. It may require a great deal of patience on your part, but the benefits of what it will do for his self esteem are worth the cost. You will be teaching him a skill, helping him to feel pride in his accomplishments, building a bond between you and he, and hey, a kid will eat just about anything if he helped make it.
- Lastly, Love your child for who she is. Don't compare your child to siblings. If your child is shy don't try to force her be an extrovert. If he doesn't like sports like you do, that's okay, love him anyway.
We as parents can help each of our children feel loved, accepted and valuable. With effort we can effectively help them overcome the challenges that life will throw their way. It might not always be easy, but being a parent is the most important job you'll ever do. Don't be too hard on yourself. None of us are perfect. If you do a "crumby" job one day, or one week, just pull your self up by the bootstraps and try again. Being a parent is a constant work in progress.