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Five surprising strengths of middle children


Some time in early March 2018, Britain’s Princess Charlotte will become a middle child.

Her mother, Duchess Kate, is around 12 weeks pregnant with her third child. We know this because Buckingham Palace and the duchess’ husband, Prince William, announced last week she was suffering from acute morning sickness, as she did with Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte, 2.

Being the middle child was a sorry state for Jan Brady of “The Brady Bunch” — who had to play second fiddle to “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” — but Charlotte could use it to her advantage.

Middle children often develop traits that make them more resilient than either first-born children or the family baby, experts say.

Middle children find it easier to think outside the box, feel less pressure to conform, and are more empathetic, Katrin Schumann, co-author of “The Secret Power of Middle Children,” told Psychology Today.

Therapist Connie Ingram of Royal Palm Beach says 26 years of seeing clients make her a believer in the concept of birth order affecting behavior.

Middle children who are less than 5 years younger than their older siblings tend to exhibit five positive traits, Ingram says:

Independence: They’ll try to differentiate themselves from the eldest sibling via behaviors and interests.

Flexibility: Middle children are often more easy-going than their siblings.

Diplomacy: Middle children have keen mediating and negotiating skills, because they have to negotiate challenges from above and below, Ingram says. “Many times, they do this by using one sibling as an ally to get what they want and at another time, using the other. Whether that strengthens them or teaches them to manipulate can be, in my opinion, anyone’s guess because so many other variables need to be taken into account.”

Resilience: Middle children are often highly adaptable.

Sociability: They’re often generous and outgoing. Because middle children don’t always get as much attention from their parents as first-borns and babies, they tend to seek deeper relationships with their friends, or “families of choice,” says Schumann.

Of course, the flip side to every strength is a weakness, and middle children have weaknesses, too.

“The most pressing issue that middles have to deal with is that they can get lost in the dynamics between the older child, who tends to be a leader, natural achiever, know-it-all, overachiever and the youngest, whose tendencies are to be self-centered, friendly, charming and funny,” says Ingram, who runs Ingram & Associates Counseling. “Thus, they may have feelings of being unloved, being the ‘victim’ or feeling the need to differentiate themselves by being extremely competitive or even rebellious.”

Middle children can’t achieve power simply by virtue of their position, so they must adapt, mediate and negotiate.

Case in point: 16 of America’s presidents were oldest children or only children. Nine more were the oldest sons, if not the oldest siblings. Six presidents were the babies in their families. And 14 presidents were in the middle, including President Trump.

In Trump’s case, though, there’s a gap of four years between him and the sibling above him, his sister Elizabeth, born in 1942, and a gap of nine years between the president (born in 1946) and his oldest sibling, Maryanne, who was born in 1937.

This may have caused him to be treated more like a first-born child, and, indeed, he is the son who followed his father into real-estate development.

His older brother, Frederick Trump Jr., was an alcoholic who passed away at 43 in 1981.

Freddy, who couldn’t handle the stress of their perfectionist father and the tough business, was a cautionary tale for Donald, who doesn’t drink.

“He (Freddy) would have been an amazing peacemaker if he didn’t have the problem, because everybody loved him,” the president has said of his older brother.

Middles are more driven than many people think, Schumann told Psychology Today — but they focus their drive on principles and social causes, which mean more to them than money or prestige.

Princess Charlotte has a good role model for that in her grandmother, the late Princess Diana, who was also a middle child.



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