Fairness for middle kids

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
The middle child can often get caught in a no-man's land of sorts, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
"It's not fair. All I get is his old stuff and they get all the new stuff."

This claim, shared by a reader, can sum up the sense of unfairness that a middle child can feel. Firstborn and Youngest get the new stuff and Master In-between gets Firstborn's hand-me-downs.

The middle child can often get caught in a no-man's land of sorts. It's not just the hand-me-downs either. They're often bossed around by Firstborn and pestered by Youngest. Firstborn has extra privileges such as a later bedtime, and Youngest may take much parent time.

Middle children can react by being very vocal about how unfairly they feel treated or become withdrawn. It would be unwise to underestimate the quietness of the withdrawn child. Deep resentments might be building up that could bring an unexpected and seemingly unexplainable eruption later.

However, they can also react by developing an independence of spirit and their own strengths and pathways.

In the end it's about how each individual is treated. Trying to treat every child equally is impossible. Don't try to. It's about treating each fairly and showing them that you're doing this.

Teach them the difference between the two. For example, treating them equally would mean they would have matching everything, whether bedspreads or clothes. If you bought one a doll or rugby boots, then equality would mean they should all have the same doll or rugby boots whether or not they wanted them.

On the other hand, being fair would mean each having a bedspread they liked, the clothes that suited and the most appropriate toy for them.

Each would have a bedtime suited to their age and needs and arrangements made for differing hobbies and sports. That's fair.

Things that should be equally distributed would be love, shelter and food.

Our Master In-between quoted above is at a point where he probably needs an extra dose of reassurance and attention. That's fair.

He needs to know he's loved for the special person he is and to have his particular strengths acknowledged. And no comparison made with his siblings.

Master and Miss In-between need to know you understand what they're telling you; that you're taking on board how they're feeling.

This attention can be given with hugs, maybe some rough and tumble, extra help with homework and by having them out with you by themselves.

Talk about their abilities, their sport, their artwork. Notice when they've been patient or helpful to others. Comment on these things as you tuck them in at night rather than in front of their brothers and sisters. They're nice thoughts to go to sleep on.


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