How Parents Can Foster Their Middle Child's Personal Growth
Parents need to increase their awareness of the traits that their middle born children relate to as well as notice how their familial interactions may influence the middle child. Introductions of family members can innocently diminish the perceived value of middle children if they include qualifiers for all the children but the middle one.
For example, stating which is the oldest, the only boy or girl, and finally the youngest may leave out the middle child and fail to recognize their role as important. Krohn (2000) said that in some families the parents expect their middle born children to basically take care of themselves.
Parents often know that the middle child is capable of being responsible and self-sufficient, but that doesn’t mean that they should always have to be, especially when they already experience other pressures such as following in the first-born's footsteps. Parents need to make it clear that they do not need to replicate the elder’s successes and help them to cherish their individuality.
Leman (1985) offers many suggestions including giving middle children special alone time with parents, room to share feelings with times set aside just to talk, exclusive territory, and new items of their own. An example of exclusive territory is the ability to watch a favorite television show without interruption by siblings. This acknowledges that their preferences and interests matter and are valued by the family.
Middle children often receive a plethora of hand-me-downs, which is both practical and economical but doesn’t allow for individuality or create special feelings. A good children’s book to help address birth order with children that acknowledges the positives and differences of each place in the family is The Birth-Order Blues by Joan Drescher.
Beth, the middle child in the book, identifies with hand-me-downs by saying that being in the middle means she gets her brother’s hand-me-down bike instead of a new one. She also described being in the middle like being the bologna hidden in a sandwich or the hole in the donut and that people don’t look up to you like they do with the oldest or say you’re cute like the littlest; you’re just plain in the middle. Positively, Beth also acknowledges that the good thing is that you get to be older and younger at the same time; sometimes I’m the little sister, and sometimes I’m the big sister.
Parents need to support their middle children, which means asking for and accepting their opinions and allowing them to make their own decisions when possible (Leman, 1985). In order to successfully communicate with middle born children, parents may have to emphasize that they should feel free to express themselves without fear and that they are not going to get in trouble. It is important to develop and maintain supportive family relationships in case the friendships that are so heavily relied on fail.
Parents should strive to make home a safe haven that is unconditional in comparison to society outside. Family pictures, which depict the system in which a middle child may feel lost, should honor each member equally. Families typically take thousands of pictures of the first-born and the novelty has often worn off by the time that second children are born.
The camera may reappear for the baby of the family, which results in a hole in the family composition picture. It is important to capture pictures of the middle child alone as well and not always with siblings (Leman, 1985). Pictures solely of the middle child communicate pride and value for that child which may be lost in the daily interactions of family life. They help to reaffirm the child’s identity and self-worth.
Finally, it is important to note that despite the challenges they face, middle children can thrive off of their experiences and family placement. Leman said that middle children are far less likely to be spoiled and therefore, tend to be less frustrated and demanding of life so the typical hassles, irritations, and disappointments of being a middle child are often blessings in disguise. With parental guidance, acknowledgement and support, middle born children can overcome obstacles and feel special in their birth order.