How Being a Middle Child Can Help Your Child Succeed in School
Sep 21, 2011
What do George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, David Letterman and Jay Leno have in common? They were all middle children, raised with the perceived middle child stigma. Yet just as they all went on to their own forms of success, the middle child in your family may unexpectedly be destined for success.
The Unique Middle
Approximately 70 million Americans are middleborns. Yet this massive segment of the population was largely under-studied until Catherine Salmon and Katrin Schuman's new book, The Secret Power of Middle Children. The book, and the extensive research behind it, sheds light on this unique group.
There are many curious statistics about middle children. First, when asked to name the person they're closest to, only ten percent of middle children named their parents, compared to 64% of firstborns and 39% of lastborns. Middleborns tend to be closest to their friends, but distant from their families. Relative to their siblings, middleborns grow up to be quite isolated from their parents, having infrequent contact, little financial involvement and minimal face-to-face time. Yet this isolation has not proven to be a barrier to success, as 52% of United States presidents have been middleborns.
Freedom From Expectations
Part of the key to the success of middle children comes from the expectations they face. Firstborns tend to carry the lion's share of parental expectations. New parents often pile their hopes and aspirations on their oldest child. The youngest children in families bear the weight of being the last.
Middle children escape these lofty expectations and this allows their independence to flourish. While it's often been perceived that middle children suffer from a lack of attention from their parents, this lack of focus fosters an opportunity to explore and develop. In many families, middle children are best able to discover their strengths and interests in their own time and on their own terms.
While middle children benefit from less burdensome expectations, they're also forced to become clever negotiators. The oldest child usually gets his or her way by being older, physically larger or other factors related to being first. The youngest child often benefits from being the 'baby' of the family and can exploit this through whining or immature behavior.
If the middle child is ever to get his or her way, strong negotiating skills are a must. The middle child naturally learns to listen to others, understand their needs and make all sides happy. This child is uniquely attuned to being stuck in the middle of arguments and needing to work things out. Development of this skill has long-ranging ramifications, whether the child goes on to be a U.S. president or not.
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