My nine-year-old daugh­ter is stroppy and whingey — could it be mid­dle child syn­drome?

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - PARENTING -

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.

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