Thursday, September 21, 2006

Is there such a thing called – “The Middle Child Syndrome”?

Middle Children: Finding Their Own Pride of Place
by
Robert Needlman, M.D., F.A.A.P.reviewed by Robert Needlman, M.D., F.A.A.P.

Oldest and youngest children can usually find reasons to be glad about their place in the family. Not so middle children. They often aren't the biggest and strongest, they aren't the babies who get away with murder, they aren't really anything special, at least in their own minds. Sometimes they feel invisible.But this uncomfortable feeling of not having a defined place in the family may actually turn out to be an advantage.

Unlike first children, who often define success by their ability to meet their parents' expectations, middle children are more prone to rebel against the status quo. This observation is the main point of a fascinating book, Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics, and Creative Lives, by Frank J. Sulloway. The book also argues that birth order--the middle position in particular--is one of the prime forces behind the scientific and social revolutions that drive history forward. I'd wager that most middle children had no idea that they were so important.

Another result of having a less well-defined place in the family is that middle children often reach outside the family for significant relationships. They make close circles of friends. During adolescence, in particular, they may be especially influenced by their peer groups, often to their parents' dismay.

Relationships with parents
Parents may not have as strong a sense of what to expect from a middle child as they do for a firstborn or their youngest. In one way, that's a good thing, because it gives the middle child freedom to follow his individual path. On the other hand, the sense of being less understood makes some middle children feel unloved. From the parents' point of view, the fact that there are a thousand baby pictures of the first child, and only a few dozen of the second-born simply means that they got tired of getting rolls and rolls of film developed. But from the middle child's vantage point, it is documentary proof of their second-class status. In terms of sibling rivalry, the firstborn may be struggling to maintain her position on top, but middle children seemingly struggle just to be noticed at all.

Relationships with siblings
For any middle child, the biggest point of comparison is the sibling who falls just before them in the birth order. Often, rather than competing head-on with that older sibling, the middle child chooses to go in a different direction. If the older sibling is a great student, for example, the middle child may become a musician or an athlete. (There's some research suggesting that middle children are more likely to engage in dangerous sports, perhaps because they are used to taking risks.) By choosing a niche that isn't already occupied, a middle child increases his chances of standing out and being noticed, and decreases the risk of negative comparisons.

Middle children, who are usually smaller than their older siblings while they're growing up, often learn non-aggressive strategies to get what they want, such as negotiation, cooperation, or seeking parental intervention. As the underdogs themselves in many sibling conflicts, middle children often develop a fine sense of empathy with the downtrodden, as do many youngest children. Where first and last children may tend to be self-centered, middle children often take a genuine interest in getting to know other people. Being in the middle, they may find it easier to look at interpersonal situations from various points of view.

What you can do
It's easy to get carried away with your first child and dote on your last, but middle children deserve their fair share of attention, too. Here are some things you can do to foster self-esteem in your middle child.
  • If you fuss over the oldest because of her great grades and the youngest because she is so adorable, what does your middle one get noticed for? Take the time to look, really look, at your middle child. What is it that he does best and makes him unique within your family? Offer him genuine praise based on his good qualities.
  • As much as possible, encourage your children to work out their disagreements without your intervention. When middle children consistently turn to their parents to stick up for them, they sometimes come to believe that they themselves are powerless. On the other hand, if the older siblings constantly dominate the younger ones, you may need to step in some of the time.
  • Respect your middle child's need to be different. Don't insist on measuring him by the same yardstick that you use with your firstborn. Let him know that it's OK for him to seek his own path.
  • Make special time for your middle child, particularly if he doesn't seem to need it. Middle children are often quiet about their needs; they may be more likely to withdraw than to make a fuss-even more reason to create a special place for your middle child.

1 comment:

NedLi Natalisz said...

testing..testing... 1..2...3..

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