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Why Do Middle Children Turn Out the Way They Do?

Tim and his wife have three boys and are both middle children themselves.

What's the deal with middle children?

What's the deal with middle children?

Middle Child Syndrome

Middle children get the shaft. Luckily for them, that’s the parenting method that seems to work best. It’s been proven that middles seem to develop secret powers that set them up for independent success in their lives.

My wife and I (currently) have three boys. I can’t tell you how many times per week I say or think, “He’s just being the typical middle child.” What the hell does that mean? It means, throughout our Middle son’s life, he’ll experience neglect, trouble, inequality, judgment, and harsh punishment. He doesn’t give a shit. Please, excuse the language; no other word suits the extreme of my meaning. Our Middle will seriously take the worst punishment we can dish out, collect himself, then try to make it better.

I have to admit that my wife and I are both Middles. We both harbor a feeling of connection and empathy for our poor boy stuck in the eye of a parenting hurricane. Our eldest is a genius, straight up smartest 4% of his age group in our city (he’s been tested). Our youngest is as cute as a Godamn button; could try out for freakin Gerber and be a poster baby. Our Middle… yeah, he’s kind of smart, yeah, he’s pretty cute, BUT… he makes a killer PB&J, he wipes his own ass, and can clean up after himself without an argument or fit.

Kids that are born in between other children tend to get overlooked between the achievements of the older ones and the needs of the younger ones. This sets these siblings up for a lifetime of hard work and creative goals. In turn, when the generation of little ones hit the real world, Middles are set up to overcome obstacles.

A good majority of parents will admit that their Middle is the most troublesome, yet, gets away with the most because of a lack of attention. There’s a specific skill set that develop from being caught between two battle grounds and Middles are able to seize the opportunity. Statistically, middle children are more successful and rise to power better than first or last-born kids. It’s a hard life, but that’s why Middles turn out to handle hardship with grace and ease.

When It Comes to Kids, Three's a Crowd

We all know that parents with multiple children, especially more than two, tend to get a little overwhelmed. Having one kid is simply a parent with a child, two is a person juggling lots of things at once, three makes you want to step in and help because there’s no way one person can handle that chaos at the grocery store by themselves, more than three just forces you to whip out your smartphone and start recording.

Even if you don’t have kids, we all know how crazy routine daily tasks can be for parents with a large brood. There’s an underlying aspect that has an impact when dealing with three or more kids. We, as efficient parents try to cut off the source of hostility. There’s the oldest trying to negotiate the purchase of an item that will not happen. The baby screaming for something he doesn’t have.

Then there’s the Middle… swinging from the damn chandelier, probably doing the worst thing that you can imagine, but not bothering anyone… not giving a shit. So, what do you do? Negotiate with the oldest to not buy extra crap and get the baby to stop crying; boom, good parenting. What about the middle kid? “He’s just being the typical middle child.” These little actions pay tribute to this ‘middle child syndrome’.

According to Daily Mail Reporter, 2009, one-third of parents said that their middle child was the naughtiest, and they also claimed the Middle had an easier ride simply due to lack of attention. Middles are essentially left to their own devices and figure out what works, or doesn’t, according to their own behavior. In this author's opinion that deserves a ‘hell yeah’.


The Skills for Life

Life is full of negotiation. The simple joys of junk food are argued with the diet you’re on, or the work you put in at the gym. This skill starts at an early age for Middles. They must gain the appreciation and inclusion of their older sibling while not feeling the wrath of Mom and Dad.

They need to get the toy they want without upsetting the baby. For a child without immediate needs or perfected fit throwing skills, Middles need to think outside the box in order to achieve their own personal goals. This translates later in life with entrepreneurship, management abilities, persuasiveness or even manipulation.

Kids stuck in the middle are able to play the field to their advantage. “They can see all sides of a question and are empathetic and judge reactions well. They are more willing to compromise and so they can argue successfully. Since they often have to wait around as kids, they’re more patient.”

Middles care deeply for others, most of all friends and family. Trust me, I see it every day. The combination of caring for others, drive for their own desires and being wedged between a rock and hard place, allows Middles to examine all possible outcomes and fight for the most mutually beneficial. In the end, a child centrally located in the sibling web will usually make sure everyone wins, first and foremost, themselves.

The Breakdown


Responisble for others

Picks mutualy benifitial outcomes

Demands personal sucess

Dominates situations

Negotiates between parties

Usually chooses themself

Fights for affirmation

Flys under the radar

Requires most attention

The Middles Before Us

Of course, we can’t say that every great revolution in history was the result of a middle child, but there has been a super trend of success from the kids that get hung out to dry by everyone else.

Charles Darwin, Bill Gates, Susan B. Anthony, Nelson Mandela, Ernest Hemingway, Madonna, and Martin Luther King Jr., are just a few names of the folks that got the shaft as a kid. In fact, fifty-two percent of the American presidents, thus far, have been subject to ‘middle child syndrome’.

Abraham Lincoln isn’t just an example of a great president and awesome American figure, but also a lawyer that negotiated everything in order to have the maximum potential; that’s the prospect of Middles. “Time and time again, plenty of archetypally “introverted” middle children have changed the world.” ( There’s great potential in the ideals that middle children obtain by being left out. It’s not a sure thing, but plenty of trailblazers are showing us a sign.

I’m not trying to convince dads to favor their middle children, in fact, that would negate all of the reasoning I just tried to share with you. Being the product of middlism (made up word), I’m glad I got ‘left alone’ by my parents, it did me justice. We, as parents, have to focus on the here and now. The older ones have figured that out. The babies just need stuff. This forces the Middles to act and develop in a way that allows them to be ready for the outside world.

A Middle is the only person in the sibling hierarchy that needs to be both obedient and disciplinary, because they are not only expected to parent in the absence of elders, but also be submissive in the presence of older siblings. Even as an adult I look at my family’s interactions with me along with my wife’s family dynamic, and I just wonder to myself… is it because we are Middles?

Do we, even with our own version of success and happiness, still need to negotiate the balance of the family? Hell yeah, we do. Being a kid in the middle doesn’t end when you have your own kids; it enhances. Think of it as your way of sharpening the axe of life so you can chop down problems that venture your way.

Fear not, Middles of the world, your life might suck now, but it’s building you to be a complete and unequivocally, independent, and driven stone cold badass.



This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Tim Kacillas


Tim Kacillas (author) from Anchorage, AK on March 16, 2017:

Thanks Nancy! I hope to write many more.

Nancy CG on March 04, 2017:

Great article!