Help! Middle Child Syndrome?

Updated on March 20, 2007
A.B. asks from Gonzales, LA
7 answers

I have three children ages 4, 2, and 1. My middle child, her name is Amelia; is very dependent on me and very clingy. She will be 3 in a month and she is extremly shy, I don't know what to do to help her. I feel like my husband and I baby her alot because we aren't sure how to handle it. Please help???

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answers from Baton Rouge on


Hi, My name is M., I'm 42, and have three children. My oldest son is about to be 21, my middle son, is 19, and my youngest is a girl, she's 17, about to graduate from High School.

So, here's the deal. I have always had "trouble" with my middle child. I know that he suffered with middle child syndrome, and still does, even though he's 19. He always wanted me to hold him as a baby, and toddler, and tends to be the one that does the most pouting. I love Joseph with all my heart, he's always been popular, and everyone loves him. He's not shy, and never has been, even in grade school. I am very sympathetic to your situation, and this is how my husband and I dealt and still deal with Joseph's self-esteem. We would take only him to dinner, to the mall, to the park, etc., and as a child growing up. Now, that he is in College, we drive over to Lake Charles to visit him, take him to dinner, and do little things for him, to make him feel special.

I suggest that your husband do "dates" with your child, and you do the same. It will make your middle child feel special. I am the oldest, so I can't really relate to this whole middle child thing, but have talked to other adults who have expressed how they feel as middle children. Sometimes, I just think it's a bunch of "bunk", just an excuse to get attention, but apprently it is not. So, good luck, and make sure that you pay the same amount of attention to your other two.


M. G.



answers from Austin on

Hi A.,

My daughter who is now 4 was the same way and not a middle child. We felt it was more of the separation anxiety. Maybe you can take that approach by letting her know that you are always available, but work on her developing space in the mean time. Be sure to reward her with praise and little treats when she shows independace. My baby girl used to be extremely shy, but now is fun and friendly. I really chalked it up to her separation anxiety, her age and personality. Sometimes she will act shy to new friends or strangers. But honestly I don't mind.

Good Luck!



answers from College Station on

I am a middle child myself so I can tell you that there really is a such thing as the middle child syndrome. Middle children just get shafted, I think. But I think that the shyness and clingyness has more to do with personality that middle child. I have an only child and she is just as clingy to me as ever. Being shy is not necessarily a bad thing. Most middle children tend to be more outgoing than thier siblings. I imagine that as she gets older she will outgrow the shyness, so don't push her now. You said you feel like you baby her a lot... middle children do tend to strive for attention and I personally think we need more attention!!! =) We get lost in the shuffle of things. So please do make special time for each of your children.



answers from Houston on

What you may be seeing may not be middle child may just be her personality. Every child is different which I am very aware of since I have four children of my own. One of my four, my third child, is very "shy" and I think the best advice I ever got was to not use the word shy in front of her to describe her. If the child regularly hears themselves described that way, then they will continue to act that way. When my daughter acts timid, we say "Savannah is working on being more friendly" and that way the other person gets the idea that she is shy and will still encourage her interact without giving her a negative label. My daughter is so "shy" that I have been called by her school both in pre-k and in first grade by her teachers to say that she had crawled under a desk and wouldn't come out because things got to be too much for her..she doesn't talk hardly at all at school and actually developed several bladder infections because she would hold it rather than asking to go to the restroom at school. We have found that this year she has a very outgoing teacher...before she had always had very soft spoken types...and that has helped tremendously. She is still very "shy", but she loves her teacher and is making progress. We don't push her...we let her be herself...not everyone has to be a social butterfly. As she has gotten older..she is now in second grade..she is making small strides and we see moments where she is more outgoing. She has several friends now that she plays with regularly and she plays little league which she loves. So I guess what I am saying is that I don't have the "solution" but I don't think it is the end of the world that she is shy...find ways for her to be independent, things she loves to do that interest her and she will grow and blossom in her own time and way.



answers from Minneapolis on


Our family has seen the same thing with our middle child. He has an older sister who is 6, he is 4, younger brother who is 2 and a baby sister coming in May.

I am continuing to look for ways to help him, but there are a few things that have improved the situation. The first is "mommy and me" time. I do this with him after I put his younger brother down for a nap. He chooses the activity - board game, toys, dress up, whatever. Then he takes his nap and the boys wake up about the same time. (I do the same thing for my older daughter at night by putting the boys to bed a little before her.)

Another thing that made a major improvement was having my daughter go off to Kindergarten last fall. My son really blossomed because he got to be "the oldest" 5 days a week. This had more impact than anything because my oldest is extremely outgoing and he is often in her shadow.

I also made sure to have him in a preschool two mornings a week and he attends Sunday School at church as well. We made it a very positive thing and when it was time for preschool to start, I left him. No waiting around or hovering or rescuing. I know a lot of parents think this is helpful, but in my years of teaching children, I have seen it to consistently cause more problems than it solves. The children get the message that they cannot handle independence and end up more clingy and less confident. Children need opportunities to learn that they can be separated from parents and they will be fine. The more they are babied, the less mature and secure they become. How you view them will determine much of how they behave.

Best wishes,



answers from Baton Rouge on

My sister has a middle child who was very clingy. She was very shy also and no one could soothe her, get her to eat or to bed but mommy. She was very high-strung and would throw fits when my sister couldn't give her all of her attention (which was nearly impossible considering she has 4 other children). I think it may have had something to do with how close her younger sibling is to her, they're 1 year apart also. My sister tried leaving her with a sitter more often, getting her to play more games with her siblings and friends, just whatever would take her attention away from mommy. She eventually grew out of it when she started going to school. She still has her moments of shyness, but I think the older she gets the less attached she becomes.



answers from New Orleans on

Being shy or meek is part of what makes her who she is. It's not a problem and as she gets older she will learn how and when she is comfortable coming out of her shell. I am a middle child and as a kid I was painfully shy... I had few friends, had no clue how to stand up for myself, and truely hated it when the attention was on me. The good thing about it was that the few friends I had were true ones that lasted many years (most of which I still am friends with to this day), I became very independent but at the same time have remained extremely close to my mom (she's my best friend). Now the not standing up for myself was a problem until recently and I highly reccommend that you do your best to teach your daughter to gain enough confidence to do that soon. The whole point of this story is that a shy or clingy child is not always a bad thing -- encourage her to make friends at school but don't force her into social situations if she says she's not comfortable with them; the worst thing you can do to an introvert is try to force them to be in a crowd -- she may end up developing an actual fear of people! Let her grow, give her attention and praise, don't ever let her feel forgotten (the meek often make it easy to ignore them, even though it's FAR from intentional!) but accept that quiet, softspoken and affectionate is her personality and there's nothing wrong with that at all! :o)

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