- Middle children are in a unique position.
- Middle children are often less hovered over than their older and younger siblings.
- They tend to be peacemakers, good negotiators, and independent.
There is something truly unique about the experience of a middle sibling. The first born is an only child for a period of time privileged to receive their parents’ complete and undivided attention. The youngest child arrives in a family whose arms are already full, and as the “baby” of the family, typically ends up getting away with the most.
I am the middle sibling. I arrived when my sister was 11 – a surprise to my parents after assuming they were one and done. I was meant to be their last when my little brother made his own surprise debut seven years later. The year I turned 8, my mum was busy alternating between my sister’s wedding plans and an active toddler. This left me in the capable hands of Fred Rogers, LeVar Burton, and Big Bird.
I never felt neglected, but my parents didn’t seem to hover over me as much as they did my sister and brother. I learned fairly quickly how to keep myself entertained with books, television, listening to the radio, and hanging out with my next-door neighbour. If this sounds familiar, you probably grew up as the middle child, too.
Here are a few things every middle sibling knows to be true.
You tend to be the peacemaker
According to Gail Gross PhD, EdD, first-born children tend to be programmed for excellence and achievement while the baby of the family seeks attention. Middle siblings are often raised to be understanding and conciliatory, likely because so much of their parents’ attention is spent focusing on the older sibling’s “firsts” and the youngest sibling’s “lasts.” Gross refers to middle children as “peacemakers” who are concerned with fairness, not just for themselves but for their siblings, as well.
Your older sibling opened doors for you
Even though my parents were very strict with my sister (she wasn’t allowed to date until she was nearly out of high school) the same rules didn’t apply to me. By the time I was in high school, my parents had loosened up enough to let me have a boyfriend.
Older siblings take the brunt of the helicopter parenting, but if they make good choices, there will be smoother sailing ahead for you. Teachers and coaches who loved your older sibling are likely to be easier on you, as well.
Your friends are like family
Gross explains that because middle children often lack the kind of attention that older and younger siblings receive, it’s not uncommon for them to consider their friends a kind of “extended family.” Lynne Griffin RN, MEd writes in Psychology Today that although they may seem secretive or withdrawn, middles are just dedicated to their “chosen families,” a circle of friends on which they can rely.
Catherine Salmon, a psychology professor at the University of Redlands in California and co-author of the book “The Secret Power of Middle Children,” agrees with this assessment, telling Business Insider that middle children are more likely to view their friends as their main resources.
You are independent
Middle children tend to rely less on their parents. While the older sibling was being micromanaged and the younger sibling was coddled, the middle sibling was free to figure things out on their own. Griffin explains that middles are typically flexible team-builders who are independent, yet also social. First-born children and the babies of the family tend to stay in closer proximity to their parents, whether by choice or necessity.
Salmon told Business Insider, “I actually think there may be an advantage being the one who is not as overly supervised, because I do think that the sort of excessive parenting that you see sometimes prevents children from developing that independence that they really need to function on their own.”
You’re a good negotiator
Middles learn pretty quickly that they have to negotiate in order to get what they want. Birth order expert Frank Sulloway, PhD told Parents magazine that many middle children develop the skills to wheel and deal at a young age, but at the same time they are agreeable, diplomatic, and compromising, all skills that make a good negotiator. Salmon’s co-author, Katrin Schumann, wrote in the Daily Mail that no fewer than 52% of US presidents have been middle children.
These negotiation skills also make middles excellent bargain hunters.
You give the best advice
When you’re stuck in the middle, you tend to become more observant. You learn lessons from the mistakes of your parents and older sibling. You have friends outside of the family and learn from them, as well. Because middles are often left alone to figure things out, they develop excellent problem-solving skills. Although they may not always follow with their own advice, you can count on your middle sibling to see a problem from all sides and offer the best course of action when you’re in a jam.
You like spending time alone
Maybe it’s all of the years spent in close quarters with your siblings, or the occasions when you had to fend for yourself, but middles actually enjoy their alone time. You don’t mind quietly wandering the aisles of the grocery store or listening to an audiobook on the commute to work. You might even get out of bed a few minutes early just to have a cup of coffee alone and plan out your day before the rest of your family wakes up. Of all of the life skills being a middle child has given you, this might be the best one yet.
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