Raising an Only Child

There used to be a stigma about only children: they are needy, spoiled and self-entitled.

I can attest that I have, in the past, judged single children based on this myth because it is too often perpetuated in our culture.

It’s almost as if we turn a blind eye to those children of multi-child homes that are needy, spoiled and self-entitled.

Where did this myth come from?

At the turn of the century, an American psychologist named G. Stanley Hall studied only children and described their existence as “a disease in itself”. There was some more to his study but the published results ended up painting only children as spoiled, lonely and over-sensitive.

Thankfully, a researcher by the name of Toni Falbo (a professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas) conducted a study dating back to the 1970’s, focusing on only children and their development.

She found that only children were indistinguishable from families with more than one child. Many others studies since have also found that only children are not any more aggressive, bossy and selfish than children with siblings.

An Only Child Environment

While children of single-child families are, overall, not developmentally different from children from multi-child families, they are definitely growing up in a different environment.

My daughter is an only child and I have every intention of keeping it that way. I understood early on that, without siblings, there are certain aspects of her development that I would have to pay closer attention to.

I grew up with an older brother, so my development was based on having a constant playmate, battling boundaries and sharing the attention of my parents. My daughter will grow to have most of my attention, playmates from outside our home and an understanding that this entire house belongs to her.

Raising an Only Child

If you are raising an only child, you can help shape their environment into one of optimal development by simply focusing on these 4 aspects of their lives:

  1. Independence: Because you are able to give your little one your undivided attention (undivided among other children, that is), it may be easier and a bit of a habit to do more for your child than you need to. When you are not battling two children out the door, it is easy to help the one you have tie their shoes. When you are not conquering a mountain of laundry for two or more children, folding and putting away for your one may be second nature.It is important to let your little one do things for themselves. Remember, you are not going to be right by their side out in the real world. Have patience and allow them to complete their own tasks.
  2. Accepting Faults: Yes, your only child is an absolute angel and the apple of your eye – but they are not perfect. Often, because parents have no basis of comparison between siblings, they place their only child on a pedestal and idealize them as having no faults.Well, they do. Your perfect little angel will have tantrums, misbehave and make mistakes. Covering these things up with excuses will do no good for your child. Children need to make mistakes in order to learn and develop self-esteem. The best you can do as a parent is help them accept their mistakes and guide them through the learning process.PS: I’m sorry if I’m the bearer of bad news on this one but although your darling is not perfect, they are definitely awesome with all their strengths and faults!
  3. Extracurricular Activities One of the biggest difference between having one child and having more children is that siblings are great at entertaining each other. That’s one thing my mother told me after my daughter ran her ragged around the yard playing Dora the Explorer: “You should have another one, they entertain each other.”If you are raising an only child, then you understand that YOU are the entertainer and that require few to no breaks. Signing your little one up for extracurricular activities not only is a great way to have them socialize with peers and face physical and mental challenges, but you get a little You Time.
  4. Sharing Like I mentioned above, my daughter is under the impression that she owns the entire household. Granted, I do set boundaries on my possessions, but she typically ignores them. However, in her mind, we are sharing and that is an important lesson for her to learn.I made sure to teach her the concept of sharing, even if it was just between her and I. We share the T.V., Ranch Doritos and my bed. All joking aside (although I’m not joking), learning how to share better prepares children for building social relationships outside of the home.

The Truth About Raising an Only Child

The truth is, however you decide to have a family and for whatever reasons, no number of children is the perfect number. Your family, and the amount of children within it, only has to be what you want it to be.

That being said, here are some universal truths about raising an only child:

  • You are not selfish for wanting only one child.
  • Siblings are not guaranteed to get along.
  • When a phase, like potty training, is over – IT’S OVER!
  • You don’t need (or probably want) a minivan.

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