Middle child syndrome: 5 strategies for your family

If you have more than one child in your family, the words “it’s not fair!” are probably a common occurrence. Younger children complain about privileges their older siblings have. While first borns feel they are held to a set of expectations that doesn’t apply to their younger siblings. As a parent, you might feel exhausted and frustrated by trying to help your children understand why these differences exist.

Read more here where I contribute to Anna Higley’s discussion on Middle Child Syndrome Is Real, but It’s Not What You Think.

Some of these strategies might help in your own home with your middle child:

  • acknowledge differences in rules, expectations, and responsibilities. Trying to deny them or imagine that everyone has the same standards isn’t helpful to anyone.

  • apply age appropriate standards and allow children to participate in this decision making when appropriate. When children feel they have input, they might be more likely to be happy participants in the household rhythms.

  • use consistency where you can and highlight where it exists. For example, all children contribute to household chores, but what those specific chores are vary. Or everyone has a bedtime, even if the time itself differs. Rules and expectations apply to all and help children understand why they exist, for their safety and overall wellbeing.

  • allow your children to express how they feel. Instead of trying to talk them out of their perception or their reality, letting them first explain their perspective can go a long way. Some validation of their experience can be comforting and then help them be receptive to understand your perspective and ultimately allow that to add to their thoughts.

  • try to have equity with special time with parents. What children generally want most of all is to feel loved, special, and to have the affection and attention of their parents. When complaints about things “not being fair” crop up, sometimes what’s underlying the complaint is a feeling that they aren’t as special as the others. A special parent-child date or outing, or just consistent rituals (like bedtime books, a secret good-bye handshake, or other purposeful ways to connect) might be just the cure to the complaints.

If your family needs more strategies unique to your challenges, find out how counseling may be the right resource for you.