Middle child syndrome maybe?

Hi all, we are expecting soon, and my 4yo (2nd born) is starting to really act out. He followed a kind of typical progression where terrible 2's were bad, but 3 was worse. Then by age 4, things got easier with him, and he was much more able to do things independently because he started coming out of his "baby of the family" persona (so he can take his own baths, brush his own teeth, etc.). But I am due with #3 very soon, and now he wants me to do everything for him. We have talked about how he gets to be both little brother and big brother and how special that is (not sure if that was helpful) and that we won't ever stop loving him. But I have also found myself giving into his demands because I feel he is so insecure now for attention that even simple things where he can put away his book bag, he wants me to do. And if I try to be firm and tell him he knows how to do this and that I'll help him in other things he can't do, he breaks down in tears. People have warned me that the second-born will have the hardest time adjusting to baby #3, and I am only recently coming across this idea of middle child syndrome, as neither my husband nor I have any experience with it. Any tips or advice?

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RE: Middle child syndrome maybe? ()

Hi! It sounds like he might just need a lot of extra love and support right now with the new baby coming and anxiety about changing family dynamics. Hence the “regression.” If you have the time/energy it seems fine to support him in the ways he’s requesting. (It’s not like he’s really losing these skills.) As he adjusts to the new baby and the fact that he is still cherished in his family, he’ll become more independent again. 

RE: Middle child syndrome maybe? ()

This sounds SO normal, and my guess is that it would be happening even if your 4 year old were an only child. So, I would think about this more as new baby syndrome, not specifically middle child syndrome.  You may find that your older child will have an adjustment period when the baby comes too.  For your 4 year old, I would go with the flow.  When he asks you to do something that he could do on his own, you might put his desire for care into words: "You'd like me to help you with that--I can do that."  Let him see that you're still there and available. If there are other times when he's being more independent, you could also give him acknowledgement for that: "Right now, you're doing it by yourself." If you try to talk him out of wanting help, it's likely to  become even more of an issue, and he could become more entrenched in feeling like he needs your help, resulting in more power struggles.  It will likely be challenging when your baby is born, as he may feel even more insecure and you will be busier with the baby.  To the extent that you're able, try to find times to give him extra love and attention away from the baby.  If he wants your help and you really can't give it at that moment, you could still acknowledge his feelings: "You would like me to help you and I can't right now. I know that you're upset about that." Then when you are free to help, you can also let him know that: "I'm ready to help you now if you would still like me to help." If he's willing to help you with the baby, that's great and you can highlight how he's a good big brother--if he doesn't want to play that role, I would let it go and keep giving him as much reassurance as you can, and don't feel guilty when you can't.