I waited four years to have my second child. I wanted to be able to enjoy him properly and it seemed the perfect time when I fell pregnant with him just after my first-born Philip celebrated his fourth birthday. We were both so excited. Philip was old enough to understand what was happening and each day changed his mind as to whether he wanted a brother or sister. He suggested names, Baxter (our dog’s name), Susie (because that’s what Spot called his sister in the book we read)…
Giovanni was born with much fanfare. We lavished him with affection.
When Giovanni was seven months old I fell pregnant again. It was an accident (gift from God). My well thought out plan to have my children spaced out by four years, thus preventing any feelings of neglect, was ruined.
I am one of four children. I am the second-youngest and my memories of my childhood are not great. My mum was too tired to pay much attention to me unless I hurt myself. I fell over a lot and the hugs, kisses and affection I received made all the pain and bleeding worth it. It’s this childhood that led me to space out my own children. Oh, and I was only planning to have two.
I determined that I wouldn’t let Giovanni be affected by this. He would still receive all the attention he deserved. I’d just have to figure out a way so he didn’t feel left or neglected when the new baby came along.
Giovanni was 16-months-old when Caterina was born. All my intentions quickly went out the window as I battle fatigue, mastitis and tried to recover from my third c-section.
Giovanni was lost. He wanted me to pick him up but I couldn’t. He tried to sit on my lap as I breastfed his sister but there was no room. He went from being to the centre of attention to being forgotten way too often. And I saw it. I knew it was happening but I couldn’t do anything much about it.
I taught him to sit next to me as I breastfed the baby and we’d hold hands but it wasn’t the same. Whenever Caterina slept I tried to have some one-on-one time with him but there was so much to do. All too often it became Philip’s job to play with Giovanni so I could wash the dishes and cook dinner. My husband tried to help but he worked such long hours that his assistance was minimal.
I knew exactly what was going to happen. Giovanni was well on the road to middle-child-syndrome.
Fast-forward to today and Giovanni is a gorgeous five-year-old boy who has trouble expressing himself with words and prefers to express himself physically (by hitting and throwing things). He is unnaturally attached to his teddy bear and sucks his thumb constantly.
He CRAVES attention and when he doesn’t get it something is broken. I have plenty of time for him now but it’s not undoing what has been done and it’s made worse by the fact there are no other kids in our family his age. The older kids leave him out of their activities (so he usually breaks their favourite toys and makes them cry) and the little kids are a touch too young to keep him entertained.
I’m at my wit’s end.
Enter : the sticker chart.
I used a sticker chart for Philip when he turned four to iron out some of the kinks and it worked a treat. At first he was earning stickers so fast I had trouble keeping up and had to set the reward at twenty stickers instead of ten or I’d run out of money.
I have set it up for all three children. Five stamps means they get to choose dinner, ten means then can choose a $10 toy at the shops and twenty stamps means they can choose an activity like the circus or bowling.
It’s working a treat.
Philip and Caterina are steadily earning their stickers by trying new foods and putting rubbish in the bin. Giovanni is the only one so far who has lost stickers due to bad behaviour (pulling the cat’s tail, playing with the flour on the kitchen floor). When he loses a sticker he is devastated and immediately eats a piece of fruit because he knows this will earn him a sticker. It’s working so far and it’s great to have a way of dealing with Giovanni’s behaviour that is clear and removes the need for me to yell or get upset. That saves all our time for hugs, kisses and conversation.
He had his interview for ‘big school’ this week. The principal could immediately see that he wasn’t a talker like his older brother. But if you mentioned the right topic (the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar did the trick) he could talk up a storm.
He knew his colours but mixed up his numbers once he got to fifteen.
I was asked if I have any concerns for him. I said he expresses himself physically and would benefit from clear rules.
I wasn’t able to prevent Giovanni’s middle-child-syndrome but I am doing my best to rectify it. We all make mistakes as parents but armed with the right tools we can certainly repair some of the damage.
How do you handle middle-child-syndrome? How do you discipline your children?