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All Children Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others



Mondays can be such a drag sometimes . If only every week would be like last week when the week started on Wednesday. I mean, that’d be so awesome. Anyway, there’s no need to cry over spilled milk. I hope you guys had a fantastic weekend. I did; and my definition of “fantastic” is uninterrupted power supply, fast internet and back to back episodes of Suits & White Collar! Yes, I’m boring like that.

Anyway, in the course of my uber-fantastic weekend, I did a little reading and found out about the “middle child syndrome”. Basically, the middle child syndrome is when the “middle child” feels neglected and this “feeling of neglect ” affects his/her personality. The middle child is caught between the oldest child who is traditionally expected to be responsible for the younger siblings and the last child who is generally believed to be “spoiled rotten”.  It is believed that the middle child battles with low self esteem, and has a constant need for approval. I was intrigued and I wondered if this syndrome applies to large Nigerian families with six children.  Can more than one child suffer from this syndrome?  I thought about writing a piece about it, asking the readers for their thoughts on if this was a real thing and if it applied to Nigerians/Africans seeing as a lot of people believe that there are some things that are within the exclusive purview of Caucasians.

I asked people around me if they felt that some children got preferential treatment based on the position they held in the family.  Are first children really tougher, more responsible? Are last-borns ‘spoilt’? Do they get everything they want? Do middle children really feel neglected? Do they really have a constant need to be accepted? My family friend told me that first borns come at a time when parents are just struggling, managing their resources and as such they are brought up under stricter environments. By the time the other children start coming there’s a little more money and the other children who come have a little more to play around with. She said… “you autas don’t know anything but enjoyment!”   Auta– That’s the Hausa word for “last born” or “runt of the litter” as I prefer to call it.  There’s a presupposition that “last borns” are special.  As a proud card-carrying member of the Auta Club, I’d like to analyze why this presumption is in place. With regards to discipline and upbringing, it is believed that the auta gets away with a lot of things that wouldn’t have been permissible with the older children. Essentially, you hear stuff like “You’re lucky you came when Mummy was older! If I did what you just did now, she would have skinned me alive”/ “Ehn? Daddy bought you a car before you graduated! That’s one of the advantages of being a last born na”. If you ask me, I’d say autas get sent around a lot especially on mundane errands… “go and wash all the plates in the sink”.. “go and bring the remote control” (which by the way, is right in front of the older sibling)

Are some children really more special than others? I realize that families vary and as such it wont do to use a wide brush to paint over this situation.  I know of a family who had planned that all their babies were going to born in the USA (better healthcare/citizenship/and any other advantages) . They saved up for it and had their first child in Houston, by the time the second child was on the way, things weren’t as rosy and the baby had to be born here (which is not a bad thing oh! I was born in LUTH). A few weeks ago, my friend’s daughter took her first steps and I asked him if he took pictures or made a video of it and he said he didn’t. He said they had even been feeling guilty that they didn’t do all the things they excitedly did for their first child because the novelty had sort of worn off and they were basically going through the motions.

We can’t conclude without talking about the “only child syndrome” (okay I sort of made that up on the fly but you get my point).  There’s a presumption that “only children” are spoiled rotten by their parents and that they basically get everything they want because they’re everything to their parents but of course, there’s an exception to every rule. One of my aunties was extra strict to her daughter. Her reason “If she’s spoilt now they will say it’s my fault”. Suffice to say, my cousin is a strong, independent, hardworking young woman today… with no signs of being an “akebaje” (one who has been overly pampered)

What do you guys think? Are some children more equal than others by virtue of their position in the family?  Do you agree that the “middle child syndrome” is a real thing?  What position are you in your family and do you feel it has an effect on your personality trait? As a parent, do you feel like there’s any way you’re being slightly partial to any of your kids?

Let’s talk!


You probably wanna read a fancy bio? But first things first! Atoke published a book titled, +234 - An Awkward Guide to Being Nigerian. It's available on Amazon. ;)  Also available at Roving Heights bookstore. Okay, let's go on to the bio: With a Masters degree in Creative Writing from Swansea University, Atoke hopes to be known as more than just a retired foodie and a FitFam adherent. She can be reached for speechwriting, copywriting, letter writing, script writing, ghost writing  and book reviews by email – [email protected]. She tweets with the handle @atoke_ | Check out her Instagram page @atoke_ and visit her website for more information.


  1. giggy

    August 27, 2012 at 11:49 am

    personally, I don’t think so. am the middle child and still treated just like my other siblings, though am Daddy’s favorite *wink*

  2. gimmer

    August 27, 2012 at 11:49 am

    i’m a middle child and one thing is sure..i am the most independent child of 5 siblings. i get along with strangers more than i do with family. i am gone for 6 weeks at a time and rarely homesick. i am the special one according to everyone in my family. my mom neglected me cos she thought my dad gave me too much attention…lmao. hater mom! i am my dad’s prized possesion though…

    • Person

      August 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm

      My dear, that is a classic symptom of ‘middle child syndrome’. Getting along with strangers more than your own family. My younger sister is that way too. It exists 🙂

  3. praise

    August 27, 2012 at 11:51 am

    I’m a middle child and I feel pretty secure with myself. Maybe because my family SO DID NOT overdo the birth order thing. Everyone got what they want regardless of age. Thank God my family wasn’t too Yoruba-ish. lol
    Middle children I know are usually the coolest, by the way. Firsts are usually highly insecure and lasts and usually copy-cats of their elders. lol

    I agree with birth order theories but I think that you Nigerian-ized the whole thing. LOL. It’s typical though, because I did see other Nigerian families turn the first child to a parent and the last to a complete useless piece in the family, literally good-for-nothing. I also find that 1sts are usually the scapegoats of their family. They chopped the most beatings, went to the worst schools and were ‘over-trained’.

    Anyway, I think I will learn from my fam and not put any excessive labels on one child. I will let my children grow up as individuals and harness their potentials and strengths; not just my ideas of what they should be. I personally hate all that ‘first born’ ‘last born’ shit. It means NOTHING to me.

    • praise

      August 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

      and lasts are*

  4. Na wa!

    August 27, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I am a middle child and yes I felt neglected growing up. My mother (dad is late) paid more attention to our first born who happens to be her favourite child and her last born who happens to be her only son. Today, I am not so close to my mother because of the preferential treatment she gave my other siblings . I think parents should treat like their children equally. If they can’t, they should bear only one child.

  5. XoXo

    August 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    I am a middle child and am the go to person for reporting any member of the family, the family mediator and also the one sent to talk sense into my other siblings…..Its quite a tasking position

  6. gimmer

    August 27, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    lmao at the trend of middle children being the first 4 to respond…lmao. this already hypothesizes something…we are quite outspoken. we don’t care who is listneing, we still say it as we see it. yeah im not close to my mother either. she can’t stand the fact that i am the most opinionated child.

  7. graco

    August 27, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    I have 3 kids. I really don’t think we treat them differently (or at least i hope not). My husband and I expect (and pray for) the same thing for each of them irrespective of their position as siblings. That they will grow up to be God fearing, responsible human beings, excel in whatever they choose to do in the future. however when we do call on our first to behave responsibly, it’s so that he can be someone they would love to emulate, go to for advice (and he too can go to them for advice). If anything at all, he loves being the commander of his crew. Guides them, but they play on the same level (age gap isn’t that wide) I want them to be super duper close. If i’ve said no to one child (depending on what it is e.g u want to go to driving school, he’s old enough, his siblings aren’t) then it”ll be a no to the others. One or two pieces of meat for each. Unless of course the others can’t eat meat cos they are that young etc. So no, no special treatment.

    But of course if a child has special needs, he may require special attention.

    • anon

      August 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      thank you for remembering that a child could have special needs

  8. purplepearl

    August 27, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    Growing up i always felt my dad loved my elder sister more than me, but am grown now and i dont let it bother me so much anymore, i miss him but my miss my mum more, mum always had my back

  9. ephee

    August 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    i am the first born and i have 2 steps(a boy & girl)coz my mum remarried and truthfully speaking my mum love the other two than me infact she transfer her hatred for my dad on me most times which meade me feel so bad and determined. things she allowed for my junoior siblings she neva allowed for me infact she was over strict with me.but i thank God today bcos all that made me strong, disciplined,responsible and hardworking. i can cope under any circumstance and also skillfull in every handwork i find myself doing to keep busy and workhard so as to be independent since each time i ask her for money she tells me she dosnt have but if my junior sibling does she gives them.i thank God for the grace to know and serve him coz depite all she did and making it obvious that she likes my 2 siblings more than me, i still stand out n everything and i love them all the same. her actions has affected my junior siblings so much that they can hardly do things themselves and also misbehaves all the time whereas wen i was their age my mum forces me and punishes me to do things that were too strong for me. today i am pround to be who i am coz it relly trained and shapened me to be a better person and to be more loving and responsible.

    thank you mum!!!!

  10. Shay shay

    August 27, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    My sister (middle child-kinda, as she is the 4th out of 5) felt so left out. Always complained, that she might be an adopted child but everyone else
    adored her, she is gorgeous and like-able (too likeable) so I guess that made up for the attention she claimed she wasn’t getting from the folks. Am the last and nobody sends me, my mum always chants in Yoruba that I act like a child who fell from the sky; headstrong and independent. Our first, is a mummy’s boy, it’s not even funny and I say that more with irritation that anything else RME. Second is daddy’s girl and the rest of us three I guess we’re just incidental children. Lol. It’s different for each family I suppose. I’ve never felt like a last child as I was hardly treated as one and since I acted more mature than my older sister, everyone thot she was the last. I am missing out one child (the 3rd) lol, he was always in boarding school and when he came around he was always in his room pretending not to exist … He kinda succeeded sha… U don’t find him in any family portraits.

    • Pd

      August 27, 2012 at 6:36 pm

      Lol….the way u described ur family is so funny.sense lots of love thou…..

    • partyrider

      August 28, 2012 at 11:30 pm


  11. Nina21

    August 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I’m the first child (female) and everyone especially my dad expects so much from me it’s sometimes draining. May be thats why i stutter alot because of how my dad used to shout, curse at me and compare me with my immediate younger sister back in d day .his attitude towards me and fear to talk to him due to fear (& more stammering) When i was younger really affected our relationship (till date). Folks shouldn’t be too hard on their first kid or their first son. It can be overwhelming if all they get is criticism and no encouragement especially at a younger age.

    • lilly

      August 27, 2012 at 10:32 pm

      My dear you are not alone. ME TOO!! (i’m the first daughter and first overall) but it’s my mom who does the shouting, throwing insults on me. In fact I and my mom don’t get along. We are like cat and dog. nothing i do pleases her and trust me i have stop bothering to get her pleased. i just do me. And that has made me tough and harden. And she will always say i’m wicked, i don’t care about her and i’m harden forgetting that she made me that way so i just shove it back to her and she continues to complain about me and i don’t care. After all how a mother treats her own kids shouldn’t expect anything different. Please mothers and mother’s to be treat your kids nicely and stop all these favoritism. Even if you have a favorite kid, don’t shove it to the other kids. Treat ALL your kids equally (speaking from experience).

    • lilly

      August 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm

      My dear you are not alone. ME TOO!! (i’m the first daughter and first overall) but it’s my mom who does the shouting, throwing insults on me. In fact I and my mom don’t get along. We are like cat and dog. the only time she remembers me is when she wants me to her favor. nothing i do pleases her and trust me i have stop bothering to get her pleased. i just do me. And that has made me tough and harden. And she will always say i’m wicked, i don’t care about her and i’m harden forgetting that she made me that way so i just shove it back to her and she continues to complain about me and i don’t care (and this have affected our relationship that even if i’m gone i don’t feel it in fact i will be dancing azonto and i barely will call or speak to her for a month). After all how a mother treats her own kids shouldn’t expect anything different. Please mothers and mother’s to be treat your kids nicely and stop all these favoritism. Even if you have a favorite kid, don’t shove it to the other kids. Treat ALL your kids equally (speaking from experience).

  12. NNENNE

    August 27, 2012 at 12:49 pm

    I am the last child and also the only daughter. I am a hustler and a trail blazer just like my mom.I guess it’s because I am very ambitious. From the word”Go”, I did everything ahead of my age mates.
    People who know me find it hard to believe this… Even my husband.

  13. maggie

    August 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    well i’m somewhere in the middle(4th of 6 children). I dont think i was neglected even though i know i am non of the parents preference.My dad’s favorite is the 2nd born and the 5th born where she was the last born for a yle(cos there’s a sizeable distance between her and the last born)and my mom’s fav kid is the 3rd(wich is her only son and her first child)*long chain…i know*. i av grown to be independent and rily matured and opinionated too and without any feeling of being treated differently. i jst came to the conclusion that you cannot like everyone the same way. My 2pence, i don’t think its the position that determines the extent of the love, parents probably have what they see.

  14. uju

    August 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I am not the first nor the last(6th out of 7). my parents loves everyone but they still have special child. To my mum its our first bro(2nd out of 7) cos he is intelligent, quite, obedient etc and to my dad its my first sister(1st child) cos she is hardworking,quite, intelligent,independent, good planner, etc. she can hold everyone at a place for hours esp when my parents were not home. we know but we didnt see it in a bad way. Today 6 of us are married( only my immediate younger bro who just finished NYSC.)
    But today i am my parents favourite child. There is no decision in my house without my consent. (i am not even the richest)
    Its not about the position that matters.

  15. brandigest

    August 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I am no. 5 out of 6, and i was given the same love, care and attention. Same thing I will give to my unborn kids.

  16. Omolola

    August 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I am the middle child and the most opinionated child in my family. I look so much like my mum buh we tend to fight a lot (We both love each other a lot dou) cos I say things like I see them. I was never neglected, used to b my mum’s favourite yrs bk but now i think I’m my dad’s fav. The first child thinks she was robbed of so many things, and I think she is right cos she didnt really enjoy most of the things we enjoyed and the last born(only boy) gets almost everything he wants but he gets the most discipline too. I think position determines some things but not the extent of love we get.

  17. mii

    August 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    I am the first child and only girl out of three children, my dad shows me tough love but adores the middle child which is quite a contrast to the subject of the article and as for the last born, well he’s a momma’s boy…to be honest i could care less…mine is to marry and get out of here tho *rme*….. and be the first, middle and last wife *winks*…lol

  18. Chattyzee

    August 27, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    I’m a last child of 5 and I have to say that I got the best of everything my parents had to offer. This was not due to deliberate effort on their part, rather, it was because by the time I came around, this were starting to go “well” with their businesses. So there were a lot of private schools for me.All of these however, does not make me more special than my elderly ones. I love them and they love me too. I don’t believe children should be treated unequal because sibling rivalry if not well contained can be evil ……

  19. aidee

    August 27, 2012 at 2:59 pm

    I am the middle child,3rd outta 5.wen I was younga I felt I was adopted cos no1 rly cared.daddy loved our last and 1st born most while mom loved the 4th which was d only made me tough and rly independent,as such I sought 4 family in maintained ma childhood clique til now,even added new 1s sef.the cool part is some friends are better than family…

  20. winifred

    August 27, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    i’m the first and only girl of 4 kids. The rest 3 are boys! i was always reminded that if i got pregnant i would bring shame and disgrace to the family. so much was expected of me right from my tender age of 5. my mum use to carat me at any slightest mistake. she will talk down at me just so i feel bad and work extra on my character. i didnt go out, i didnt talk much, i worked hours sweeping, cooking, washing, dusting etc.our neighbors used to call me PRISONER anytime they happen to see me. and at sch i was called STRANGE! As a result i grew up with a rigid heart and personality. i was extra hard on my younga brothers. and this affected my relationships with frends and men. i just cant take nonsense from a guy. until i got heartbroken.LOL. TWICE i got heartbroken! it was Brutal for me as i was used to being in control all the time….then my parents sat me down and begged me to calm down n let my soft side show. that it was okey to be soft. that was wen i opened up i told them how they were hard on me and becos i didnt want to disapoint them i developed the hardness which affected my entire life! my mum broke down and said she only wanted me to grow up responsible as all the girls in the family from her side and my dads side all got pregnant and are now drop outs and suffering societal stigma.

    I am learning to let go now and learning to relax a bit. but its hard developing a nu character all offer again afer 27years. My boyfrend now is soooooo patient and understands and am reading books on how to drop my masculine energy and develop a more feminie energy!
    My fear is i might do it to my girl child. i hope i dnt!

    • Ebey

      August 28, 2012 at 8:55 am

      Wow! U just told my story. We’re even age mates! For a minute I thought someone was impersonating me. I have resolved never to do same to my children. I pray I don’t!

  21. OmoMakun

    August 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    I’m the middle child and I have to say my parents didn’t necessarily neglect me, I guess from the get go I was very independent, so I don’t wait around for their approval or If i do get it, I just see it as a bonus. My parents do favor the first born a lot and I find it quite annoying ‘cos they don’t want to listen when she’s wrong. A lot of times I just keep quiet and let things happen so they can see for themselves. The last born gets away with a whole bunch of stuff too! At the end of the day my parents believe i’m very focused and deteremined so they really don’t worry too much about me. But sometimes I do wish they pay a little more attention to me at times, cos i’m still thier child too

  22. Pd

    August 27, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    I feel u jare……not easy been a tomboy….i can predict the next thing coming out of a guy’s mouth….freaks dem out. Am sure you gonna be fine !

  23. Deep

    August 27, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    I am the only child that did not get everything she wanted. Very independent, hard working, focused. My mum gives HER siblins more attention dan me. I never knew my dad. But thank God for Jesus that changed my life because when i was younger i cared about my mums behaviour but now i dont care. My boyfriend is a middle child out of 3. Everyone in the family follows him, his a mummys boy. He loves his mum to death, when ders a misunderstand in his fam i av to beg him to remain calm cuz if he gets angry the whole family will do what he says.

  24. Oma

    August 27, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    i am a middle child but i wouldn’t say i was neglected or given special attention.
    I was independent from a very young age though.
    i believe parents subconsciously SHOW love to some children more than the rest. i know my mum shows our first and last more favour without her even knowing.
    i’m used to been the not -so-remembered child anyway, helped me mature faster.
    i’m a bit emotionally detached though. Guess its the middle child syndrome.

  25. Sugabelly

    August 27, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    I’m the only child. Does that count?

  26. Queen

    August 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I can totally relate with the middle child syndrome. I am the middle child and also the only girl and growing up was hell for me. I really couldn’t be picky with food unlike my brothers; I had to eat what was given to me. I did all the house work and was spoken to so badly by my Mom that my brothers began to bully me because of that. They called me ‘house girl’ etc. My Mom wants to be my friend now but it’s tough.

  27. busgee

    August 28, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    i think the moral of the comments and not the story is that we should pray for wisdom as parents to raise our kids right…so many people have so many stories; a lot goes back to how mum mistreated them and now, she wants them to be fast friends…for me, that speaks of a fundamental flaw in prevailing parenting styles!

  28. Ifiok

    September 3, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    I am the first and i must confess leading three people as in my case is very tasking, i have to show good example(i would not dare be picky with foods as my younger ones) and i have to look out for my younger ones. This however taught me to be strong and very independent

  29. hawtmom

    October 19, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    deeeep sigh! favoritism is such a terrible thing and it destroys unity in the family. im the 5th and first girl ina family of seven, my dad’s favorite was my 2nd eldest brother while my mom’s was my 3rd brother and then my immeadiate younger sister. i headrd tales of how my dad would give his favorite a cane to beat the first born whenever he goes wrong(i still shudder each time i imagine) my life was pretty much misreable and i believed it was bcos i was ugly,skinny and awkward;it was just MY FAULT! i even remember my parents making comments like”im sure you are from your dad’s side/ mom’s side that’s why your so different/awkward… oh how confused,unloved,undeserving i felt… today? i’m a beautiful, independent hardworking mom to an adorable son and a wife to a man who loves me to bits!my overly favored sibblings didnt quite learn the to be independent so… as a mom now, i know the worst thing i could do to my kids is to show preference to some at the expense of the other kids. it took the grace of God to forgive my parents cos God vindicated me in beautiful ways!my folks still cant believe the transformation,hehe!!!

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