Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Middle Child Syndrome

By two minutes, Evan is the second born in our family. That also makes him the middle child. And he seems to be exhibiting extreme middle child syndrome. It doesn't help that his younger sibling is a boy. So they fight and he doesn't give in and he will stand his ground even on threat of punishment. It is him defending what he sees as rightfully his. It is further exacerbated by a doting grandma whom he can run to, when the wrath of Mommy and Papa is incurred.

He usually whines and cries when shoved into a corner by his little brother. We try to mediate as fairly as possible. But Evan probably sees himself as the one more persecuted by his parents and his little brother gets away with bloody murder. It must be difficult for him, his little brother gets what he wants by crying, why can't he? Why does he have to be the more reasonable one?

So last week, things came to a head. He wanted a big bowl of parmesan cheese. Muffin wanted some. Packrat took a little bit from the big bowl (which we were not going to allow him to finish, anyway) and sprinkled it over Muffin's shepherd's pie. Evan became territorial over his food and showed his anger by banging the table. While we understand his annoyance and frustration, we were not about to allow him to get away with it. Because he got a time out and was removed from the table, made to stand aside, the waterworks began and rapidly ramped up into hysterics, flailing, throwing himself on the floor and not quite sure what to do with himself.

As I watched my son spiral out of control into a state where I don't think he was even aware of what he was doing, I wanted to cry. Our punishment had sent him into such a state and at one point, he almost blindly ran onto the road because he was so desperate to get away from me. It took him an hour to calm down, only at that point did I explain to him why we were upset and why it was unacceptable to behave in that manner. With a lot of hiccoughing, he apologised to his father before dissolving further into tear.

I now understand why my mother used to say that it hurt to punish us. It really did. And going through that, I understand why some parents find it easier to give in. It is unpleasant to feel like a monster, it feels awful to know that we were the ones that induced the hysterics and all would have been peaceful if we had just listened to him and not given Muffin the bit of parmesan. The problem is that sends out a message that I don't agree with.

So, instead of give the man a fish, feed him for a day... let the boy get away with murder, make him happy now. Call him on it, teach him a lesson, hopefully for life.

Thankfully, he seems none the worse for wear. Us, the memory of our flailing son is etched in our memory but we'll get over it.

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