Middle Child Syndrome: The Spare, The Forgotten, and The Independent

The meme that parents often forget their middle children reveals some truth to their feelings.

While the eldest find themselves playing the “third parent” and the youngest are “the most beloved”, where does that leave the middle child? Middle children often laugh about how they’re usually forgotten. They snicker at jokes about how their names have been switched several times, how their parents don’t seem to celebrate their achievements, or how they’re just not “seen”. But in exchange, they develop independent personalities that allow them to stay resilient. Unfortunately, that also gains them a new title: The Most Stubborn and phenomenon: The Middle Child Syndrome.

The Middle Child Syndrome: Feeling Unseen and Unheard

Middle children often feel unseen and unheard but eventually, they find themselves accepting that their role is rather flexible. Sulloway’s book on Birth Order points out how the eldest are often more “neurotic”; they are constantly anxious about meeting a certain standard. Whereas, the “later borns” appear more sociable. Middle children also find themselves lacking the advantage of investment unlike the firstborn and the lastborn. Thus, they often report being not too close to their families.

Can this dynamic shift?

In some cases, cultures can cause the dynamics to shift. Families with a strong sense of inheritance, tradition, and hierarchy may sometimes find that the eldest is unable to “properly represent the family’s interests” be it in business or social gatherings. Thus, the investment falls to the middle child. The sudden onset of pressure can trigger feelings of anxiety as the formerly unattended, unseen, and unheard lifestyle is now under a microscope.

The Mediator Between the Eldest and the Youngest

Because of being witness to the ways of the eldest and the youngest, most middle children report having strong negotiation skills. They’re excellent diplomats; having constant practice with two bickering siblings such as the eldest being the “third parent” while the youngest is the “one who gets away with everything”. Because middle children — as Adler reports — never had the chance to “monopolize the parents’ attention”, they try to find other ways to stand out. In which case, their best way to stand out is through the ability to negotiate.

The middle child is still our child!

It’s not uncommon for parents to mix up their kids’ names especially when in a hurry. Some families even just address them by titles like “ate“, “kuya“, “ahtsi“, “ditsi“, etc. to differentiate them. However, remembering their names or even noticing their accomplishments plays a big role. It may be hard but telling them “you did great” or not getting their name wrong 60% of the time can go a long way.

Dealing with multiple kids? Here are more stories:

How to Deal With Sibling Rivalry: What To Do When The Kids Keep Fighting
Troy Montero and Aubrey Miles On Parenting Across the Lifespan
Inspiring Messages from Celebrity Parents and Siblings on Pride Month

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