Parenting Tips On How to Prevent Middle Child Syndrome


Having a kid relevantly impacts the dynamics within a family, and when there are three kids, it’s not uncommon for the middle one to feel neglected. Psychologists have termed this the middle child syndrome, pertaining to the middle one causing distress to the family, or is the one in distress because he feels unimportant, left out, and unloved. This becomes obvious to him especially if the eldest child performs well in school and is quite talented, and the youngest in the family is the darling of everybody. In this case, the middle child is often moody, bitter, detached, and insecure.

“Middle children often go to an extreme to get attention, which is why some dye their hair purple or become a fanatic about a particular singing group—because they need an identity really bad,” says Meri Wallace, LCSW.

I, for one, can attest to that. My middle child, Dawn, is more difficult to handle compared to my other two children. She is awesome, really, and I love her to pieces, but in almost any situation, I usually have to reprimand her or call her attention. I want nothing but for her to achieve her goals and be successful in the future, but she seems to turn a pleasant atmosphere into a bad one and so I end up scolding and nagging him more often than I want to. She has good grades in school – not great, but good. I’ve heard a few complaints about her moods from her friends. But at home, she just annoys everybody in the family.

If you, like me, are trying to explore some strategies to prevent your middle one from developing the condition related to his order of birth, here are some suggestions that I gathered from my fervent reads and web searches (KidsHealth, BabyCenter and other children’s health-related sites)

Treat Them All Equally.

Parents and family members agree that an effective method that can help prevent middle child syndrome is to focus your attention to all of your kids. Be aware that the syndrome is a result of us, parents, being more involved in either the eldest or the youngest sibling and not realizing that they have excluded the middle child in the story of parenthood.

Chris recalls when his mom and dad bought a present for his older brother. After a few days, they bought another present for his little sister, the youngest. The following week, they bought yet another present but gave it again to his older brother. Chris cried for hours that night, so his brother gave him his second present. He thanked him but didn’t accept the present, saying that for years he was always receiving hand-me-downs from his brother. “I felt so unloved and so invaluable. I didn’t want to receive hand-me-down love from my parents too,” he says. He hopes that parents treat their kids equally to prevent middle child syndrome. If the oldest and youngest get a present, please remember to give a present to the middle one.

“An occasional hand-me-down is fine, but your middle child may be particularly appreciative of something new, especially a key item, like a coat or jacket,” writes Kevin Leman, PhD, in The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are.


Make A Special Room For Your Kid.

To avoid the middle child syndrome to manifest in your family, create a space in your home that is distinct for each child. You may have kept them in the same room together, so maybe make a small nook for each of them, themed according to their favorite. If you middle child loves to read fairytales, decorate the roof of the stairs with stars and unicorns and create a room design by closing it with colorful curtains. Do the same for your oldest and youngest. They will surely appreciate it and your middle one will feel as loved as his other two siblings.

Pay Close Attention To Them.

Parents do not always acknowledge that they have favorites, and sometimes they really don’t know that it shows. That is why it’s vital that you are aware of the things that you do rather than parenting by the book. Be sensitive to your child’s feelings. If he’s running around destroying things or annoying people, perhaps he’s just acting out to catch your attention. Another indication that she is suffering from the syndrome is if she is constantly sad and bitter.

My middle child is performing averagely in school. She is a member of the music club and she does have friends. However, I notice that in between the smiles are desperate frowns and signs of frustrations of herself, and she is aloof around some family members. That’s why some members, like her Granny and Gramps, tend to be closer to my two children.



“t’s not unusual for middle children to feel jealousy, inadequacy and insecurity as a result of growing up in an environment where they compete for attention,” says Betty Richardson, PhD, RNC, LPC, LMFT. Thus, you need to practice paying more attention to what every kid needs and wants, and eventually, birth order will hopefully become less significant, as you will be thinking about how to prevent it. Once you learn to appreciate the similarities and differences of each of your children and love them equally anyway, then birth order will not matter anymore.