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Stuck in the Middle: Tips for Parenting the Middle Child

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file0001038016166They’re not the first, and they aren’t the last—they’re the middle children. Parents tend to be stricter with their first-born children, while the baby of the family has fewer restrictions and gets more attention. This leaves the middle child trying to find a balance. But they don’t always have to feel caught in the in-between. As parents, there’s a lot that you can do to keep your middle child from feeling left out. Follow these tips to help your middle child feel just as special as the others.

Finding their own identity

Parents should encourage all of their children to find their own identity, but this is especially important for middle children. Don’t expect your middle child to do or like the same as the others. Give them the freedom to discover their own hobbies and passions separate from their siblings to encourage them to be independent thinkers.

Treat them differently

Each child will think and act differently, so they should be parented accordingly. What worked with your first child may not work with your second, so be open to trying new parenting methods with each child. The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman outlines how to make your children feel loved in the way that they each receive it best. Some want hugs, words of affirmation, or to spend quality time with their parents in order to feel unconditionally loved. Knowing which way your middle child receives affection will help improve your relationship with them.

Don’t measure against their siblings

Success shouldn’t be measured by how well another child in the family did on their test or in the football game. Just because one child is good at sports and the other is not, doesn’t mean that one succeeded and the other failed. Middle children often feel that they have to measure up or be better than their siblings to get noticed. If you celebrate their successes individually, they will be less likely to feel like they are being compared to the others. If your child cares about people and genuinely enjoys life, then that should be counted as success.

Check in with your middle child

Great parents know that it’s okay to ask your children how you’re doing. Parents with multiple children often bounce between taking care of one child to another frequently and might not be able to see the bigger sibling dynamic in their day-to-day. Checking in with your middle child can help you know whether they feel appreciated and loved, or if they’re feeling ignored. Asking their option also shows that you respect them and recognize the difficulties of being a middle child. 

Spending individual time

Just as it’s important to check in on an individual basis, you should set aside time to spend with your middle child without their other siblings. Plan a day to do an activity that they specifically like, such as taking them to see a movie that their siblings don’t want to see. Big or small, the individual time will make your relationship stronger and your middle child feel more loved and appreciated.

Most importantly, remember that every child is unique. Just because some act out for attention or are shy and introverted, doesn’t mean that your child will turn out that way. Treat each of your children as individuals, and you’ll have a healthier, well-rounded family.