The Challenge of the Middle Child

Dear Sara,

I have five children and my middle child, age ten, is the problem. She is whiney and clingy and often gets into fights and arguments with the other children. How can I improve her disposition and help her be more cooperative?

Dear Allison,

You can kind of see what your daughter’s problem is. She has two older siblings who are bigger, smarter, and able to do more than she can. They also probably try to boss her around and make her bend to their wishes. On the other hand, she has to compete with little ones who need lots of attention and who she may perceive as cuter than she is. She seems to be caught between them with no way to gain attention but act out.

Your daughter may need some ways to gain positive attention. Does she have some talents like art or dance that you can encourage? If you find that she likes to help in the kitchen, you could teach her simple cooking chores and give her attention for being helpful. This would also give her some one-on-one time with you when she doesn’t have to compete with the younger children.

Another way to change her attitude and behavior is to “catch her being good” and give her your attention at those times. She may be ignored when she is behaving appropriately since you have so many other things to take care of. Your daughter needs your help in finding her place where she can shine.