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Middle Child Syndrome, Does it Exist?

Middle Child Syndrome, Does it Exist?

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We were recently heart broken by another mother’s story of her dealings with her children as of late, specifically her middle child. I really want to share this with you as I know there are a lot of people who can relate and hopefully provide some much needed support and possible advice. I will also keep her name confidential just in case and note that I am not a psychologist, but have taken psychology courses!

This is a synopse of her situation. She wants to know if middle child syndrome really exists or if it is something made up somehow? she has three girls and finds the middle one has always been the hardest to discipline, to please, and to convince that she is loved as much as the other two. Her middle daughter is lashing out at her mom and a lot of hurtful things are being expressed. This momma is coming to the end of her rope and is looking for help, support or understanding of the situation her daughter is going through.

I myself am a middle child (I have 3 siblings), and I played the typical middle child role. Starting at about the age of 10-11 (from what I remember), I was probably my parents worst nightmare up into my 20′s. I rebelled, I mistreated myself, disrespected my parents and other authority, I often seeked attention from males, and needless to say got into too much trouble. I felt like the world had a hate-on for me and often thought everyone would be happier if I was gone for good, (but always realized that I didn’t want to leave). I felt at times that I hated my parents, that I wanted them gone, that they didn’t love me as much as my siblings. The more they tried to save me and love me, the more I rebelled and it just snowballed out of control.

I abused alcohol, drugs, and myself, and can’t believe a lot of things I survived. Since then, I have done a lot of soul searching and it wasn’t until a year or so into my relationship with my husband that things became started to become clear. This is when I started respecting my body, my parents, my life and everything in it. My Mother often said, “just wait till you have kids” and at the time I often thought I would never do what “she did to me” or treat my kids the same as I felt like I was treated. But then I was pregnant with our first child and the fear set in. What if my kids feel like I felt, and go through what I went through, I could never handle it, I don’t even know how my parents did. Now we have 2 children and people often ask if there is a third in the future and I get paralyzed with the fear of raising a middle child!

Call me crazy, but I do believe in Middle Child Syndrome. And I believe only middle children can fully understand what it entails. I felt a constant need for one on one attention, but that never felt fulfilled by my parents. So I was always looking elsewhere and received it both negatively and positively. Looking back I do not blame my parents. I was a needy child (and adult now!!) and my Mom was and still is amazing. She did everything for us at home, cooking, cleaning, sewing, knitting, anything and everything. She volunteered, she worked, she stayed home with us when we were young. But she was always pulled in so many directions, with a family of 6 there was always a lineup for attention! My Dad worked full-time as a teacher (in my highschool) and did a lot of extracurriculars with us. We had a busy family life!

So getting back to the point here, Moms going through this, please know you are great moms and it is not your fault, you are just the easiest target. There is so much going on in a teenagers mind and body, that it is hard for a lot of adults to understand, especially their moms. I have looked into this syndrome and it does exist, but there are ways to help. This website helps with defining some effects on birth order and personalities and this one also gives helpful insight on middle child syndrome

Lastly from my experiences (although I am no expert), I would try the following (and will if ever needed!)

  • Give your children one on one attention. Try to do a little more with the middle child without their siblings around. They will always need more than you think!
  • Listen for warning signs. They need some you time and are reaching out when they are screaming hurtful words at you. Then take action, your child needs you before it gets worse.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. I know you can’t always cater to the middle childs needs, but jealousy can be avoided in certain situations.
  • Help work on their self esteem and self image. Seek help if this is not something you feel like you can do. There are workshops and professionals that can help.
  • Take time for them every day. Even if it is 10 minutes of attention and asking them questions and listening to their answers, this could mean the world to them.

Remember if you are in a situation like our OVM Mom, seek help and support, I hope this helps a bit!

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Comments (6)

  1. Crystal Tuesday - 11 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    Great post Nina! Not being a middle child or having more than 1 sibling, I never really thought about this at all. I can see how this IS something though, and think you did a wonderful job to clairfy and pin point it. I hope this helps our Mom who reached out! xo
  2. Lynda Tuesday - 11 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    Reading your article makes total sense. I too, have been reading up on it. Going on day # 3 on trying extra hard to give her extra everything and so far so good. I told her we were two in this mother /daughter relationship and we both needed to give and take a little. It is nice to hear that I am not alone. Thanks for the article Nina. Soooo VERY much appreciated. Thank You. xo
    • Nina Tuesday - 11 / 12 / 2012 Reply
      Thank you Lynda and good luck. Revisit it anytime you feel like you are going off track again and hopefully it will help you and your daughter to build a strong healthy relationship xo
  3. Alice Tuesday - 11 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    Great post. I think more people should be aware of this & try to prevent it as much as possible.
  4. Nina Tuesday - 11 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    Thanks Crystal and Alice! I didn't know what I would write until it started and I think it helped me deal with a few things as well as I was bawling half way through! I do hope that this might help someone, now or in the future :)
  5. Melody Lachance Wednesday - 12 / 12 / 2012 Reply
    Coming from a family of 6 children, with 3 girls and 3 boys we had so many different dynamics I am surprised that my "parents" survived. Myself being the oldest (and a girl) took on the "mother" role when my mom decided to go back to work when I was 14 and my youngest sibling a boy was 7. Our family went, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy so you can see we had oldest in family girl, then oldest son, then we had two middle children - one boy and one girl. Then the two youngest, each a boy and a girl. Talk about syndromes!! But I do believe that my "middle siblings" did feel it, and with our parents being very young and overwhelmed they had no idea. But as we grow, like you say Nina our parents did the best they could and as adults we have to respect all they tried to do and learn from them.

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