Your Middle Child Needs to Feel Special (Episode 334)

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Do you feel like your middle child is pulling away? ! Listen in to learn more about how to make your middle child feel special on this episode of Have a New Kid by Friday Podcast.

**Special Offer– Oct 1 – 31: The Birth Order Book ebook for $1.99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or wherever you get your ebooks**

Show Sponsored by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing

Produced by Unmutable™


Transcript

Doug:
Oh, the middle child, the forgotten one. Andrea is a middle child. I’m a middle child and we can confess.

Andrea:
Oh, we feel forgotten.

Doug:
We are forgotten so often.

Andrea:
So I have to add in this next few weeks, we’re going to go over some of the birth order and we started with the middle child on purpose.

Doug:
Yes. Woo hoo. For the first time people are going to actually hear from us. So we’re going to get tips on what does it take to raise a middle child?

Doug:
Hi, I’m Doug Terpening.

Andrea:
I’m Andrea.

Doug:
We’re both middle children and we are really glad that you are with us today. If you’re an older or younger, but if you’re a fellow middle. Woo hoo.

Andrea:
Go middle children.

Doug:
Go middle’s unite. [inaudible 00:00:47] welcome and if this is your first time, I’ll let you know this for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter raises any concerns for you or a child, please go seek a local professional for help. Well, Dr. Leman, the question that Andrea has brought to us today is what about us poor middle children. What’s the tips on raising them? I thought she had a great [inaudible 00:01:12] your middle child needs to feel special or they’ll slip away. Help us. How do we raise our middle kids?

Dr. Leman:
Yeah they blend in. They can become beige. There’s part of the personality of the middle child. Many of them will let that happen without much of a fight. They just assume that the book ends, the first born and the youngest have it made and they sort of resolve themselves to an inferior position in the birth order. So their own personality does not lead to a lot of positives in a natural way. You got to sort of bring those positives out of the middle child. I remember one mommy saying, “Of all my kids, I could never figure out when things went awry with my middle child because I would find her whimpering in her room by herself. She wasn’t the one that came and said, “I feel sad or upset or I’m mad,” or whatever.”

Dr. Leman:
So again, a lot of middle children just sort of blend into the wall. So this is a good topic. I’m so proud of you guys as middle children saying, “Okay, if we’re going to talk a little birth order, let’s start with those neglected middle children.” They are the squeezed ones. I think everybody can see that. Again, your reality people is what you see from behind your eyes is a kid grows up behind the firstborn. There he is in the second position.

Dr. Leman:
He has three parents to start with or she has three parents to start. We’ve got mom, dad and older sibling. Depending upon the year gap between the first born and the second born, the more that statement is true. Because for example, if that child is four years younger than the first born, that’s a huge, huge difference. So the more gap there, the more influence that older sibling has over you.

Dr. Leman:
Now think for a moment, what are the personality characteristics that would describe your first born, your older sister, your older brother? Everybody think of that. Now those are probably areas that you as a middle child did not pursue. You went just in a completely different direction for survival, yes, but it makes sense. Doesn’t it? That role is already filled. So middle children, let me just say this, are the toughest to pin down.

Dr. Leman:
We say, “Okay, all middle children are like this.” Now we say all, we’re saying that with tongue and cheek because all middle children are not the same obviously, but when you look at them in masses, there are certain personality characteristics that seem to be pronounced within the middle child. So that’s number one reason why they’re so hard to pin down because they play off of what’s ever above them in the family.

Dr. Leman:
Let me give you a middle child who has an older sister who is rather introspective and she’s the quiet one. She’s not a leader, doesn’t seem to be a leader. She’s a quiet, follow the rules person. Books are some of her best friends. She doesn’t have a lot of social life. There you come along two years later. Middle child says to himself, “She’s a little on the boring side. Talk about beige layman. She’s beige and spades.”

Dr. Leman:
You know what? I think that’s an opportunity. That child, that second child, a middle child might leap over that firstborn. Now notice I said two years difference. If there’s a two year or less difference between the first and the second, there is a probability of that second child leaping over so to speak, taking over a leadership position in the family where they become more of a functional firstborn than they are a middle child. So let me just stop there and let you middle children interact because I could talk on this subject forever, but I’d much rather hear from you guys and how that makes sense maybe in your own lives, as you look at Doug and Andrea.

Doug:
Well, Andrea I think is a more pure firstborn because I have an older sister, three and a half years and then I’m the first boy and I was the first grandson boy. So I was the honored boy.

Dr. Leman:
Oh. You were a little kitten.

Doug:
I was little kitten. Yeah. So you can react to this more than I can.

Andrea:
Oh yeah. So yeah, my sister is two and a half years older than me. So I was trying to listen in like how does that fit with us? How did I respond to Emily’s, do things differently. I specifically, I remember when it got to sixth grade and we got to pick an instrument. She had picked flute and I really would’ve liked to play flute, but I thought, no, I have to be different.

Andrea:
So I picked the clarinet and I remember a particular sweater she got one year school shopping and she got the sweater and I loved it and it was in style, but I couldn’t get the exact same one. So I went and I got a blue one, but I never liked mine as much as I liked her green one, but I couldn’t have the same sweater.

Dr. Leman:
But listen, Andrea, how you lock in those choices. You’re very definite about that. I couldn’t do this. I can’t do that. That’s what happens to the middle child because they see those choices that that older sibling makes. I mean, they’re in granite. They’re in cement. They’re anchored and you just don’t dare go there. That’s why I can say almost assuredly that when you look at a family, the one thing we can really bet our house on is the fact that the first two kids in a family, especially if they’re same sex are going to be night and day different.

Doug:
So Dr. Leman help us as parents. We’re raising our middle children. What do we need to be aware of? How do we inadvertently parent them poorly or not ideally?

Dr. Leman:
What you have to understand is in the birth order itself, you have two little piglets who sort of dominate everything. That would be piglet number one and piglet number three. Let’s just say, make it easy. We’ve got a family of three. So the smart parent, the very best thing they can do to a middle child because what we do as parents is we call on the first born or we’re drawn to the baby of the family because they have an unreasonable need for attention many times and we skip over that middle child without even realizing it.

Dr. Leman:
So memorize this parents. Honey, I’d love to know what your opinion is about this. What do you think about this? Where would you like to go? What color do you like best? How should we spend our vacation this year? Tapping into those kids’ minds and letting them know that you care about their feelings is primary number one lesson for every parent of a middle child because they will slip away. They won’t always tell you how they feel. They’ll lock themselves into answers for their life just like Andrea just shared with us a few moments ago.

Dr. Leman:
So you got to get them out of that rut and let them know that you value them for who they are. So again, you want to treat your kids differently. So in treating your firstborn or your second born differently, I got news for you. Who wins on that? The firstborn wins. They get the bigger allowance. They get more privilege. They get to stay up later. So there’s some built in things within the family hierarchy that play against the middle child as well. So they get beaten up pretty good. They really do.

Dr. Leman:
The nice thing about middle children is when they get it from on top and they get it from underneath themselves, they become resilient. They become pretty adaptable people, flexible people. They roll with the punches. So with all this negativity we’re talking about for the middle child, those tough bumps in life I think helps strengthen the middle child to make them more courageous and able to persevere and develop an internal message that says, “I can do this.” So there’s some good news with the bad.

Doug:
What do we do towards middle children that is negative? Do we say things like, “Why can’t you be more like your older brother?” Or do we view them as lazy and not caring and not attention to detail?

Dr. Leman:
Well, anytime you compare children to each other, you’re doing somebody, both kids who does service quite frankly, but middle children can internalize that and then they start telling themselves, “I’m not this and I’m not that.” That’s why I say the positive affirmation for who they are is really important. So that means when you’ve got three kids and some psychologist on a podcasts says, “Well, you’re going to spend some special time with this kid. Hey Lehman, come to my house at 5:30 at night. It’s like a zoo and all the kids are either trying to finish their homework and I’m trying to get some help in the kitchen and I beat dad home by 45 minutes and I’m trying to get dinner on and I’m feeling the pressure and we’re yelling at each other and what do you want me to do? Take some extra time with the middle child?”

Dr. Leman:
It’s easier said than done what I’m saying, but those moments where you’re tucking kids in at night, I’d spend that extra time with that middle child. I’d tell them about your day and some of the thoughts you had and have a psychological transparency where you begin to foster a rather intimate relationship with that middle child, because I’m here to tell you he or she blocks themselves off from the rest of us in a very natural way.

Doug:
Well, and to that point, that’s kind of for me the annoying part. They block themselves off from us. You can just see them even when we ask them, “Well, where do you want to go?” The answer is, “Well, I don’t know. I don’t care. Wherever.” You’re like, “Dang it just tell me.” so how do we stop that from happening?

Dr. Leman:
In a functional way, you say, “Honey, when you decide where we’ll go, we’ll go someplace. In the meantime, we’ll just sit here and look at each other.” I mean, there’s ways of I always say force a blowout rather than a slow leak. Not that that’s a huge blowout, but no, we’ll wait. We’re patient. I want to hear what you want to do. Today is your day to pick where we go. They will let other people decide for them. They’re malleable. You ever see kids play with slime and how fluid that is and you could take slime from one hand and dump it in the other back and forth. That’s just a little bit like a middle child.

Andrea:
Which makes me think of something how I’ve heard that often the middle children are the peacemaker in the family. Does that go along with that? Because I can see a middle child not wanting to give their opinion about where we’re going to go eat or what movie we’re going to watch because they want to make sure everybody’s happy.

Dr. Leman:
Right. So they’ve learned when they express their opinion, older brothers, sisters, that that’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Why would you want to go there? So they’ve learned to sort of keep their opinion to themselves. What I’m trying to teach is we want these opinions out on the table. You have to encourage kids to give them to you. Again, in a very natural way, they fight against that themselves. But yeah, it’s very true. They avoid conflict. They’re peacemakers. That’s a wonderful skill. I’ve often said a middle management man. You can’t beat a middle child personality because they’ve negotiated their entire life.

Doug:
When we come back, I want to address what happens if we don’t get their opinions and we don’t try to draw them out so that we know from them? But before we do that, I want to share, this is one of the best things [inaudible 00:14:51] gives you guys offer for is the ebook is a birth order book for only $2.99 Between now and the end of October 2020. I’m just telling you, this is one of Andrea’s favorite books that she read and you read it in a flash. It’s only $2.99. Andrea, we got a little review here from someone on Amazon.

Andrea:
Yeah. Okay. Here. Very interesting and we’ll explain why your uncle or brother is the way they are. I have given this to many people and they are all fascinated by the info inside. Even those who pleasantly said thank you, we’re lauding how helpful and interesting the book is and figuring out why people do what they do.

Doug:
So Dr. Leman, why would I buy this book?

Dr. Leman:
Well, it’s a life-changer book. Now that’s a strong statement. Life-changer book, but it will change how you view yourself and how you view others around you. It’s a book that people buy in multiples. Of all the Leman books, that’s the one where it’s not uncommon for people to buy six of them at a time and give them to their friends or their work force people, their children. I think I’ve shared this with you before, but one of my editors who lived in South Carolina and she was really a top editor.

Dr. Leman:
She was with Thomas Nelson publishers, but her daughter was in a very serious automobile accident and she was hospitalized for quite some time, but she I’ll never forget her telling me that she for the very first time saw her daughter smile after this terrible accident reading the birth order book. I’ll never forget that. That’s a book that will put a smile on your face.

Dr. Leman:
It gives you insight into marriage, into yourself, into how you rear your kids. It’s sort of like an all purpose flour. You can use it in so many different situations. If you’re a business person and you’ve never read that book, oh my goodness. You have no idea what you’re missing. You’re a leg or two up on the competition by just simply reading that book. I always point out to people. Do firstborns by product like youngest children? No very, very different. Very different approach.

Dr. Leman:
So if you’re in sales, do you approach everybody the same way? I hope not. Am I suggesting in sales you say, “Excuse me, but what’s your birth order?” No, they’ll think you’re a nut, but what I’m suggesting is a conversation. Hey, where did you grow up? Where’s home for you. Oh, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Oh, cold country, huh? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah me and my brother. Okay. Bingo. I’ll already know he’s got a brother. Now is that a younger brother or an older brother? Oh younger brother. I’m the oldest. I’ve got two younger sisters too. Bingo. You know exactly as a salesperson after reading the birth order book how to approach that person in sales.

Doug:
So get it now wherever eBooks are sold till the end of October of 2020 and now a no-nonsense parenting moment with Dr. Kevin Leman.

Dr. Leman:
Hey parents, it’s grade time and the grades come home. Whose grades are those? You know the answer. But some of you say that’s a reflection upon me. So you do all kinds of things to help your child. You help your child by not helping your child. Again, as I’ve said on another tip, if you’re really in trouble, get yourself a tutor for your son or your daughter. Preferably someone just a few years older than them. Someone who can relate to them.

Dr. Leman:
We’ve seen these scandals where parents have paid billions of dollars to get their kids into prestigious schools. Does that make sense? How’d that work out by the way? Not very good. So remember, grades are a simple reflection about what your son or daughter has done in the classroom. Can you remind your kids of one thing? Yes. Here’s the thing. Honey, someday, someone’s going to look at a computer screen, see your four years of grades and they’re going to make all kinds of assumptions about who you are. So yes, grades are important. Now get to work.

Doug:
So Dr. Leman, you painted a picture of we’re all busy. It’s 5:30. We’re trying to get dinner on the table and then we’re trying to do homework or we’re running off to soccer. You say what happened? It’s hard to find time to connect with that middle child and ask them their opinions. What happens if we don’t do that? What’s the longterm ramifications?

Dr. Leman:
Well, the term to put a bluntly is you’ll never get to know your child and guess what? Your child will never get to know you because it is a two-way street. That will be the child that might not have a need to get together with family. That might be the child if you turn them off enough that you just don’t ever hear from them. There are families like that, we’re a real close family.

Dr. Leman:
So when I say things like that, it’s hard for me to feel that because I’ve never felt that in my life, but I sure have addressed a lot of people will feel isolated from their own family. So it’s just one of the crucial things you have to do as a parent. They have to get to know you and you need to get to know them. It’s easier to get to know the baby. Their mouth’s always running about something.

Doug:
I remember that you painted the picture for us a long time ago of a tree and as the tree goes up in this branch comes out here, that side of the tree is taken. So other kids will take different sides of the tree and different branches. If I hear what you’re saying is we can’t make all our kids play the clarinet. that We should let, we should let them choose. Maybe they don’t even want to do instruments. Is that what you’re telling us with the middle child? Let them be dance and not do music at all.

Dr. Leman:
So let’s take that analogy of the tree and look at it again. You see the trunk of the tree and the roots to the tree, that’s the foundation of your family. Those are your values, your beliefs, what you believe in, and as the trunk thickens and gets bigger and all of a sudden we have this first branch, there’s your first born, the other branch is your second born, your third born, et cetera. My question what are the nutrients to grow that tree?

Dr. Leman:
So the water that’s required in trees is the words. It’s the communication. It’s the love. It’s the feeling that makes us all a part of, in spiritual terms, Jesus talked about the vine and we all are part of that vine as a church. Well, we’re all a part of a family like that tree.

Dr. Leman:
You nurture that with words of encouragement and you trim the tree. There’s your vitamin N. That branch just doesn’t get to go and do everything they want to do. Sometimes you got to trim it back. Sometimes certain trees drip, if you know what I mean. I have a front sidewalk it reminds me of that every spring. Sometimes you have to put a bandage around that, on the limb to keep it from dripping where you don’t want it to drip. So again, as a parent, you’re the captain of the ship. You make those calls. Are we asking a lot? Yeah. When you decide to become a parent, you signed up for that, just like marriage. In sickness and in health.

Doug:
Yep. So Dr. Leman, one of the things that you said a long time ago that I have found true is that you can’t just sit down with a kid and say, “Okay, we’re going to have a heart to heart now.” That oftentimes they just kind of pop up whenever you’re doing some project and all of a sudden, or you’re doing something and then the kid starts sharing a lot with you. In my limited, I only got four examples, but I would say my middle two are the more random ones that it’s like, all of a sudden we’re doing something and all of a sudden we have this meaningful conversation where it seems like the younger and the older is far more willing to have those in a structured way.

Andrea:
Yeah. They’ll initiate it almost.

Doug:
Is that a trait of middle children or just the weird term?

Dr. Leman:
Yeah, I think so. I think one of the things you learn as a parent is to catch them on the fly. When you talk about random, a lot of parents would say, “Yeah my kid’s very random,” and some of them are just going all the time and they’re nonstop and there’s days that go by, I hardly say a word to that kid for whatever reason. But there comes a time, and usually it’s the end of the day, where kids settle in and there’s a smart parent that comes in and sits on the edge of the kid’s bed and just shares with a child.

Dr. Leman:
Some kids share easily. Some kids have a version of that, but you’re going to have to have times when you laugh, times when you cry, times when you communicate. Sometimes [inaudible 00:24:23] just very casually talk. You’re not going to force that relationship. It never works to force anything.

Andrea:
For our listeners, if there’s somebody out there that’s listening to this to this, then realizing, “Oh man, I’ve been neglecting my middle child and they are preteen, teenager,” what would your best advice for them to jump in without freaking that kid out? Like mom and dad are now grilling me with questions or what would be a good way to segue into building that relationship differently?

Dr. Leman:
I would do some self-talk as a parent to myself about how oblivious I’ve been at some things. Maybe just say, “What have I assumed about my middle child that I’m really not sure is true?” Make that list. That small list that you come up with is a fodder for you to engage your son or daughter in. Honey, you know the other day I was thinking and I always thought that you were maybe the most secure of all of our kids. You don’t whine like your little brother and you’re not bossy like your big sister. You just sort of roll along. But I’m just wondering, is that a fair assumption or not? I’d love to know your opinion on that.

Dr. Leman:
Again, I’m not trying to play shrink with you. I’m just curious. But see, that’s how I would approach things. All you do is give the child an opening to share about what’s really going on in their life because the middle child will hide out and they’re so adept at making sure everybody else is happy because they hate disapproval and conflict that you can miss, hey, is my middle child okay? So you just set up situations like that. They’re very casual. Again, it’s not forced. It’s just an opportunity to share.

Andrea:
It reminds me of some earlier podcasts we’ve done on not asking your kids questions, but how to draw them out. So that might be a good one to go back to.

Andrea:
I want to go back to something you said, Dr. Leman and then we should wrap this up is that the idea of sitting down with our middle child, I’ve done it with one of our middle child and said, “Isn’t your older brother a little over the top?” Like everything has to be done, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” like you suggested. I think I even copied you verbatim. Like you said, the kid’s eyes lit up and he’s like, “Really dad? Yeah.”

Dr. Leman:
I’m so glad you reminded me of that because you struck gold on that, Doug, because that’s the clincher folks. I’m just telling you. When you say that kind of thing like Doug just said. Honey, can I ask your opinion about something? Is your older sister a little over the top or is it me? Every cell in that kid’s body says, “What did you just say?” That is the best words. That’s better than Christmas is tomorrow. Somebody finally understands what I’m up against. That might be the clincher that brings that kid to tell you what’s really going on in their life.

Doug:
Well, and I set that middle child free to not have to be like perfect older brother. Like Dad actually has critique about older brother? I thought dad idolized older brother. It was like, “Nah, I get annoyed when he does that to me too.” I mean, he was like, “Wow.”

Andrea:
I am a little confused about our family’s birth order and who’s who, so I’m just going to ask real quick before we end the podcast. We have boy, girl, boy, girl and they’re all about two years apart. So does that make first girl like a firstborn personality?

Dr. Leman:
Well, your born daughter can be a functional firstborn, but that is dependent upon how strong of a firstborn, in your case, James would be your oldest son.

Andrea:
And he’s strong.

Dr. Leman:
Yeah.

Andrea:
Anna is a functional middle.

Doug:
Oh, she’s a peacemaker, conflict [crosstalk 00:28:37]

Dr. Leman:
Yeah. Okay. But there’s your reason why I want people to see. If firstborn is really your typical strong dug in firstborn, that’s less probability that that girl is going to become the functional first born, although she could in some other situations and more than likely that she becomes a middle. When you say you’re confused about your family, let’s just move down to child number three, a boy. There should be an alliance in your family and is the Alliance in your family between boy number one and boy number two or is it between boy number one and baby girl?

Doug:
Oh.

Andrea:
Oh definitely.

Doug:
Definitely. One and four are definitely alliance.

Dr. Leman:
So the two in the middle should be opposites.

Doug:
They are.

Dr. Leman:
With that being said and see, I would tell anybody to take a pen and a piece of paper and just diagram it. Put their names down or if you want, just boy, girl and sometimes you can just look at it and say, “Our family makes more sense than I thought.”

Doug:
Yep. Okay. Well, I got to wrap-

Andrea:
This is so fun. So thanks for talking about us middle children today.

Doug:
This is why I encourage you to go get the birth order book because it’s not just it’s like this is oldest, this is middle, this is youngest. He also talks about what to do, what not to do, but then also variances and why there’s variances within there. It’s absolutely fascinating and super helpful. If you’re a middle child who feels lost like, “Well, there’s nothing about me. I’m just night.” No, there’s way more in there about it than you realize.

Doug:
So you can get it now between now and the end of October of 2020, wherever e-books are sold or $2.99 to get it now. Well, it was great to be with you and yay for us middle children that we got to go first. Thank you Andrea, and we look forward to the next time we get to hang out with you and add to that parenting toolbox.

Andrea:
Have a great week.

Doug:
Take care. Bye bye.

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