My nine-year-old daughter is stroppy and whingey — could it be middle child syndrome?
MY nine-yearold daughter is like a miniteenager. She has an 11-year-old sister and a fiveyear-old brother. She is stroppy, whines and causes trouble most of the time. I believe she really does suffer
IDON’T know if there is such a thing as middle child syndrome, but I do believe that birth order can have a big impact on how our personalities develop. It is quite common, for example, to have eldest children that are high-achieving, anxious or very obedient. Youngest children are often very laid back, and sometimes quite demanding.
Middle children, especially of a group of three siblings, often fall one of two ways. They either seem to be much like your daughter — quite from something like middle child syndrome, if it exists. She plays her dad and me off each other, often running to him saying I am mean to her. Then when it comes to bedtimes, she is all about me, telling me she loves me, and asking me if I love her. At night I lie awake and wonder is she jealous or is she just wild. What can I do with her?
oppositional, troublesome and stroppy — or they are really well-behaved, indispensable and always by your side, wanting to be involved in whatever you are doing.
Irrespective of birth order, though, children do often take on “roles” within the family drama. So you may find that you are always referring to one or other of your children as “the sporty one”, or the “artistic one” or “the singer” or “the joker”…or “the troublemaker”, and so on.
While these descriptions may be valid, they can also be limiting for children, since we may only think of them in terms of their primary role, or we assume that since one child has a particular role, that the other children have to be different to that. There are many siblings, for example, who have beautiful voices, who were never encouraged to sing because another brother or sister was the one fêted for their singing.
So, it may be that your daughter has a particularly fiery temperament, or a penchant for impulsivity and lack of forethought. Mix that kind of temperament with being a middle child, who has neither the kudos of being the eldest nor the cuteness of being the youngest, and it is easy to see how it could develop into an oppositional type of personality.
It might help you and your daughter if you could begin to see her in a different light. She may already be labelled in your family as “the troublesome one” and if you are not careful, she may just continue to grow to fit with the negative expectations you (and others) have of her.
Perhaps if you go back to one of your suppositions, that she is jealous of either or both of her siblings, you might begin to take a different view of her behaviour.
Children are always motivated to seek the approval of their parents, unless they are unable to do so. Sometimes children just don’t know how to behave because they get into such a negative cycle of misbehaviour, that gets them in trouble, leading them to misbehave further.
Perhaps her behaviour is her best effort to try to show you how upset she is that her sister and brother get better, or different, attention than she gets. If they are generally well-behaved, for example, then she may feel she gets treated unfairly, even if you feel you have no choice but to give out to her for what she does.
So, think about her as a good girl who misbehaves sometimes. Focus on catching her being good and commenting on it, such that you and she become more aware of how good she can be. Talk with her, too, about being a middle child and what that might be like. You may find that she is well able to talk about any jealousies or rivalries.
By talking about them she may be able to process them more effectively, such that she doesn’t end up showing you her unhappiness through misbehaviour. Even having this kind of time with you, to talk, will feel more positive and is likely to improve the quality of your relationship. Positivity breeds positivity and so with a more positive approach from you, you may find a positive change coming about in her.