30 Mar
What’s the Cure for Middle Child Syndrome?

Dear Mouthy Housewives,

My 6-year-old son is pulling all kinds of annoying crap lately…mostly whining and complaining about things not being fair between siblings or with the universe in general. I think it’s a phase because I remember our oldest acting like a similar pain at this age.

The problem is, every time my husband and I discuss our son in private, my husband gets all wound up and worries about him suffering from Pathetic Middle Child Syndrome. Well, I’m a middle child thankyouverymuch and I get pretty defensive every time he argues his case for PMCS. How do we have a decent conversation without me getting all “Marcia Marcia Marcia” about it?

Signed, Don’t Call Me Marcia


Dear Jan Brady,

As you know, there are plenty of advantages to being a middle child. Like your son gets to be a big brother AND a little brother! And he also…. umm… damn… I thought I’d be able to think of more.

Okay, it’s a bit of a rub being the middle sibling. You’re often not as talented as your older sibling and not as cute as your younger one. You get all the hand me down clothes, fewer photos and less attention which leads most middle children to work on their greatest achievement… WHINING.

But being a middle child is not an excuse. It’s a chance to rise above your lot in life and conquer the world. Or at least that’s what I tell my middle one. She just looks at me and whines that she doesn’t know what I’m talking about.

Look, there are a million reasons why children behave badly and with our demanding reality TV commitments, we don’t have time to always figure it out. Maybe your son really is upset because he is the middle child. Or maybe he’s bummed out that Dino Dan can see dinosaurs and he can’t. Or maybe he’s in the dumps that the Phillies’ second baseman is out with an injury for the foreseeable future. How the hell should you know? “Dancing with the Stars” is on!

Tell your husband that it really doesn’t matter why he’s complaining – so enough with this middle child excuse. You just need to figure out how to improve his behavior. This is pretty much trial and error.   Spend some time with him one on one. Try to ignore the whining and only give him attention when he speaks in a normal voice that doesn’t make you wince with agony. Make a chart and give him stars when he behaves well, take away stars when the whining hits full throttle and when he gets a certain amount of stars, he wins a prize…. like a trip to the candy store, extra TV time or a safari vacation! Only you know what will work for him.

I’ve heard this middle-children-annoying-the-hell-out-of-us is just one incredibly long phase. But still just a phase. So hang in there and keep us posted.

Good Luck,

Kelcey, TMH

12 Responses to “What’s the Cure for Middle Child Syndrome?”


Comment by Kisa.

I’m the oldest of three girls and my “middle” sister used to tell me and the other sister that being the middle child was the best because, and I quote, “If Kisa dies then I get to be the oldest and if Sara dies, I get to be the youngest. I’m bound to outlive one of you!”. I tell you what, we are all about 18 months apart and those first 18 months being an only child were the happiest ones of my life! ;P

Kelcey, TMH Reply:

That is hilarious. I love your sister’s philosophy!


Comment by hokgardner.

My middle child does a lot of whinging and complaining, and I know it’s a ploy to get more attention. I’ve found that her behavior evens out when I give her unexpected hugs and attention – not when she’s whinging for it. I also make sure to find little bits of one-on-one time whenever I can.

And tell your husband, politely, to suck it.


Comment by Plano Mom.

ANY-children-annoying-the-hell-out-of-us is just a phase. Makes no diff the birth order. That’s just a bunch of pseudo-science out to sell books.

I recommend the following book. Doesn’t completely stop the whining, but it does often turn it into something a little more palatable. It also works great on husbands.


Plano Mom Reply:

And yes, I know I just debunked birth order books, and then recommended ANOTHER book.

Sophie Reply:

This is a great book. I recommend it to anyone who will listen (and even some who won’t).

I don’t believe in the birth order books either, but I do know that in our house anyway, being a middle child is hard. Being a parent of a middle child is even harder. I try to give plenty of unexpected attention as recommended by the OP. Then, for the first minute of any whining I agree in a neutral tone (“oh, I know! It is so hard having a younger brother! Yes, I hear you! You are feeling frustrated aren’t you?”) For the next minute I deflect firmly (“OK. Done with the whining now. Let’s do something else. Your face is too pretty to have that complaining noise coming out of it”). After 2 minutes she gets the choice of stopping or time out. Usually by that stage she has given up though, and some balance is achieved…

Bean Reply:

Which is funny, because what you described doing is exactly what How To Talk suggests!

I have to constantly remind myself that not every moment needs to be a teachable moment… that sometimes people – kids too – just want to feel heard.


Comment by marathonmom.

What you need to do is send the oldest or the youngest to boarding school in the northeast. I think that is where they are. Anyway, that way, the 6 year old won’t feel middle anymore and will realize that he should shut the whining because he might end up there too.

I only have 2 kids so, sorry I can’t try this myself.


Comment by Mimzy Wimzy.

My middle child is also my bi-polar child. That was a lose-lose on my part!

If it helps my bff only has 2 and her older one is the whining drama champion of the world!

I believe its not birth order, its just personality. You are in it for life so fasten your seatbelts and prepare for a bumpy ride!There really are no emergency exits on this ride (trust me, I’ve looked for them!)

Plano Mom Reply:

And I can tell you that NO HOSPITAL has a no-questions-asked return policy.


Comment by drivencrazyby4kids.

I have one child of my own who is only 4 and now have 3 step children… ALL GIRLS.
4, 7, 9, and 12. GOD HELP ME.
His middle child drives me INSANE. Well, they all do, but she is worse. Half the time I can’t even stand to talk to her b/c she is so annoying. She is always sick and always complaining about SOMETHING no matter what it is. I told her that there is always something wrong with her and… like the boy who cried wolf and she is going to get really sick and noone is going to believe she b/c she whines about everything all the time. People keep saying well, she is the middle child. I say.. NOT ANYMORE she isn’t… There are 4 children now… there is no middle. So suck it…


Comment by jacobm89.

i am a 36 year old middle child and i jTyust need to say that if you are not a middle child then you wolnt understand the syndrome but it is not nice because your always in the shadow of your brother or sister and because of that i always got the leftovers frm christmas gifts to clothes. they have done alot worse than just 2~3 gifts on christmas but i canot be botherd to write it down but i can just say that just bethore i moved out (23) i was that fed up with my family i tride to take my life and ended up in A an E for 2 weeks and they did not come and see me. i know this is just my experiance and i am shure they are alot worse middle child storys out there. (and btw i have nether used the syndrome as a excuse)

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