Feb 062008

Is Aloneness The Same As Loneliness?

One of the vital concerns of parents of only children is “Will my child who is growing up alone turn into a “lonely” person in his adulthood?” Before we venture into the topic further, we must ask ourselves a question- “Is loneliness the same as aloneness? Or is there a difference?”

The Definition

Loneliness is defined as a disquieting feeling of isolation and exclusion leading to a longing for company. Aloneness on the other hand tends more towards solitude and ‘being with oneself’. While a lonely child could be bored or frustrated due to lack of things to do or people to talk to, an only child having his time alone could actually be relishing it.

Addressing the question of loneliness amongst only children, experts concede: A child’s development is affected by two kinds of influences- those that are present, and those that are absent. While the absence of siblings may indeed have an influence on the only child, the parents can ensure that the nature of influence is a positive and advantageous one.

Benefits of being an Only Child

Some of the beneficial influences of being an only child, growing up sans siblings are:

  • The only child who is the sole recipient of the parents’ entire attention can grow up feeling very secure and much loved within the family. This in turn may give the child an extraordinary level of confidence leaving him amply empowered to face the world in future.
  • Only children more often than not develop an uncanny knack to entertain themselves. In order to fill their time alone, they will find newer and creative ways to stay engaged instead of depending on external sources (like playmates or siblings) to keep themselves occupied. Studies show that only children can grow up to be very self-reliant and poised individuals.

Parent’s role

However, one has to constantly keep a watch on how the child uses his time alone and ensure that he is not isolated or lonely. Providing your child with a healthy mix of enjoyable company and productive time alone can help him grow with a sense of balance and equanimity.

…and some tips

If you live in a large neighborhood with many children, encourage your child to visit his friends’ homes and invite his friends over on play-dates or sleepovers. Let your child bond with his friends beyond the playground.

Help your child to make his time alone productive. Is he simply watching TV and playing video games or is he engaged in something creative and fulfilling? Monitor that, and channel his interests. He can also learn an expressive art like music or painting.

However, there may be periods when your child is without company or at a loss for an idea to engage himself. During those times, you as a parent can come forward to fill in the gap. Make time for your child. Step out to kick a football or grab a bat to play with him. Willing involvement from a parent can do wonders for the child and create newer bonding opportunities for you and him.

The key to an only child’s balanced growth is in assessing the fact- “Is my child lonely or is he simply alone?”
Of course, for you to answer that question you should be able to tell the difference between the two!

 Posted by at 7:47 am
Feb 062008

Only Child As A Mini Adult

Most only children (obviously) spend more time with adults than do children with siblings. There is a stereotype that smaller families are ‘parent-oriented’ wherein the child joins in the parents’ activities, whereas in larger families, activities are ‘children-oriented’ wherein parents partake in activities that would keep their kids engaged. To those who emphasize this stereotype, isn’t there another stereotype that says that parents do everything for their onlies, and try to be their playmates? So which one is correct- is it the household becoming ‘parent-oriented’ or ‘child-oriented’?

The truth might be somewhere in between. With good parenting, the situation can be turned to greatly benefit the only child. Studies indicate that there are multiple advantages an only child gains from the constant company of adults around him.

Being in an adult atmosphere predominantly, only children acquire superlative verbal skills. This in turn aids them in excelling in academics.

As they get to observe and be included in adult activities, it gives them diverse experiences of the world around them.
Only children display equal amounts of calmness, leadership qualities and self confidence as children with siblings, but are a notch higher than the latter when it comes to being cultured, sensitive and mature.

Despite these positive gains, parents need to keep tabs on what the child is imbibing from his environment. Only children who enjoy greater camaraderie with adults than with children of their own age may over-identify themselves with elders and emulate not only their behavior and speech but also identify himself with adult entitlements and responsibilities.

How to recognize if your child is more comfortable in the adult world than his own?

  • Does your child act his age or act above his age?
  • Does your child offer suggestions or puts forth his comments on matters that are best dealt with by parents alone?
  • Does your child prefer to hangout with you and spend the evenings lounging around the house with you instead of being outside in the ground playing and romping with other kids?
  • At parties and gatherings, does your child presume that his place is with adults and feels entitled to participate and socialize with your guests just as an adult would be expected to?

Differentiating between adult world and child’s world

While it is vital that parents retain a loving relationship with their child, it is important that in the family equation you remain the parent and he the child. In a family of three, the increased interactivity between parents and the only child can easily blur the line between parents and the child. A child who over-identifies with the adult world and adult responsibilities may be growing up too fast for her age and losing out on her childhood.

A child needs the assurance that his parents are in control and there is someone bigger and stronger than him who is in charge of his life. A child has to be made to feel safe and secure by clearly delineating to him that his own world currently is free of adult responsibilities and adult concerns.

How to do it

While it is acceptable to allow the child to contribute to conversations on what to buy and where to holiday that year, encouraging this kind of suggestion-giving to an inappropriate degree may result in the child developing an exaggerated sense of importance and giving him to intrude into your conversations and decisions. It is healthy to allow the child his say but make clear to him where his role stops.

Watch how you speak to your child. Do you talk to him as you would to a peer? When you engage with him, what are the kinds of activities you both choose to do? Is it adult-oriented like, or is it child-oriented like playing outside, riding a bike or going to the park? If you are unable to find playmates for your child and if you are pressed to keep him engaged, opt for child-oriented activities rather than doing things which you would also enjoy doing.

Encourage your child to build his own circle of peers and friends. A child’s social skills need to develop comparably to his equals and not with respect to grown ups.

Parents can delineate their time alone from the child and demonstrate that they have a life apart from him too by occasionally going out to dinner or movies without the child and by taking short breaks leaving the child behind with caregivers. If you carry guilt about doing any of these, the feelings will communicate itself to the child and he may feel entitled to go with you everywhere, failing which he may feel resentful or excluded.

Aware parents can mark grown-up/child divisions rather comfortably without compromising on the closeness they enjoy with their child.

 Posted by at 7:43 am
Feb 062008

Supporting Your Only Child’s Balanced Growth

When David and Sharon found that their medical condition did not allow for a second child, they decided to work around the problem by sitting down to discuss why they wanted to give their son Jon a sibling in the first place. ‘I wanted him to know about sharing and caring for others. My husband wanted him to be more independent. Of course, we both thought it would be great for our son to grow up with a companion.’

The couple delved deeper into the reasons for their wanting a sibling for their son, which included:

  • Enabling ‘give and take’ feelings in their child.
  • Stop making him self centered.
  • Ensure he was not lonely or bored.

What they found after much research was that many of these reasons were stereotypical or just plain false. They realized that it was all about parenting and little or none at all about siblings.

David and Sharon found ways to offer their son these strengths without adopting another child or opt for more intensive medical treatment to make a second pregnancy possible. The couple decided upon a variety of activities that they believed would aid in the balanced growth of their son Jon- even with the absence of a sibling who would have probably given him instant companionship.


An only child seldom feels the annoyance of having to ‘wait’ to watch his favorite TV channel. Particularly if the household has two television sets, the parents may be watching their shows on one while the child has a free run on the other. There are countless examples like these- who gets the window seat, who gets to open the new cookie box first and so on. You must tell your child early on that, though as an only child he is more privileged and ‘less taxed’ than those with siblings, he must know how to share with other people.

There is something else you need to bear in mind: children from large families are used to arguing and fighting for the metaphorical ‘window seat’. Over time, they might not only have become adept at it, but also developed a feeling of normality to all this. Your only child may find all this aggravating and unfair, and you might have to clue in your only child on this.

Activities to promote sharing

‘To show our only child Jessica that she is not the center of the universe, we got her to volunteer for a local ‘sell a cookie and save a puppy’ social initiative program’, says Martha, mother of an 11 year old only child.
It helps when parents themselves enroll in social services and volunteer their time and services to set an example for their only child. Sharon involved herself in activities like offering to shop for an aged person and collecting funds for the homeless.

When a friend is ill, get your only child to call the friend regularly or offer to help with the school work. When you buy a new pair of jeans or a set of new shirts for your only child, tell him that he has to give away that many old clothes of his to someone needy. This makes space not only in his shelf but also in his heart.

Dividing attention

‘When George interrupted us for the sixth time in a two minutes’ conversation with a guest, we knew we had failed to impart an important lesson to him,’ says Gregory. The only child has the privilege of getting his parents’ undivided attention almost all the time. Most parents are all ears when it comes to listening to their only child. This establishes an expectation in the child that he be heard first all the time.

Waiting to be attended to

While children from large families have to vie for parental attention and scramble for ‘talk time’, the only child enjoys an abundance of it. When you find your only child interrupting your conversations or resenting your telephonic conversations with others, it is time to act.

Define acceptable behavior and set boundaries. Tell your child he has to wait for his turn to speak within the family. Let your only child wait for his turn to watch TV instead of edging you out of the room. Give him a fair idea of what competition is within the house.

Do not limit your telephonic conversation because ‘little Tom does not like me talking too much to others’. Remind your child to behave herself with when she tugs at you to stop speaking over the phone. ‘I make sure I compliment Jon when he behaves well amidst company,’ says David.

Fostering independence

Some parents fail to realize early on that their undivided attention and eager parenting could result in making their only child dependant. The golden rule here is ‘don’t do for your child what he is perfectly capable of doing on his own.’ Are you are still tying the shoelaces or hanging up the wet towels or gathering clothes after your ten year old? Then its time to start making some changes!

The gift of independence

Make the gift of independence to your only child. Don’t mistake good parenting for ‘doing everything for your child’. Part of your parental duty is to make your child less and less dependant on you for his daily activities as he grows into adulthood.

Start by showing him what he can do for himself. A five year old can help you set the table. A six year old can make his own bed (however clumsily). Your child can be assigned small tasks around the house like putting out the garbage, taking out the laundry, folding napkins or even helping out in the kitchen depending on their age.

Another important way of ensuring that your child does not miss the presence of a sibling is through friends and playmates. Peers can teach the only child a great deal on sharing and caring, fighting and making up, receiving and giving, taking the good with the bad and most importantly the feeling that the only child is ‘one among many’. These are lessons adults cannot impart.

 Posted by at 7:42 am
Feb 062008

The Sibling Question- When an Only Child Asks Why Does She Not Have A Little Brother

Parents of onlies often ask themselves, ‘Does my child need a sibling to grow up with?’ And an only child sometimes asks ‘Why don’t I have a sibling like John does?’ Although the questions appear similar, they are quite different: one requires a lot of thought and the other tact.

Studies indicate that children also have a way of wanting to keep up with the Joneses and more often than not, your only child might be demanding to have a sibling only because his best friend does. How much importance should be given to a child’s desire to have a sibling? Before we address that question, let us first ask ourselves: really how important is a sibling?

Arrival of the Deflator

A sibling helps in making the erstwhile only child understand that he is not the center of the world as he till now believed himself to be. A sibling can be likened to a ‘deflator’ who, through his demands for parental attention and stake to space and possessions of the first child, brings about an adjustment in the perception of the world in the erstwhile only child’s mind.

When a second child comes along, many children go through a period of jealousy, resentment and confusion. The parents then make efforts to normalize the situation by talking to the first child or compensating in some other way. Similarly, the process of ‘deflation’ can be brought by the parents of onlies too, in other ways than bringing in a sibling to do it.

Siblings- A support system…

Many parents believe that a sibling is someone their only child can fall back on and depend on during difficult times and in their old age. This thought is partially correct and partially wrong. Research indicates that sibling rivalry and enmity can carry well into old age. Around 63% of people have claimed to suffer the ‘Cain and Abel’ syndrome where siblings don’t see eye to eye and report ‘unresolved issues’.

Most parents decide upon a second child depending on the quality of their own relationship with their siblings. The bottom line is that parents are guided by their own subjective thoughts and good or bad experiences with a sibling (or the lack of it) when they decide to have more than one child.

Ways to compensate for lack of siblings:

  • Create opportunities for your only child to be among other children.
  • Enroll your only child in a toddler or a pre-school program.
  • Find playmates for your older only child on a regular basis.
  • See if you can move into a larger neighborhood where your child will not be starved for company.
  • Allow your child to sort out sibling-like problems with playmates on his own without your intervention.
  • Help your child nourish his friendships as he grows. Let the bonds grow to be one as strong as between siblings.
 Posted by at 7:41 am
Feb 062008

The Sibling Question- When Parents Wonder If They Should Have Another Child

Many parents of only children dread the ‘sibling question’ -that is the uncomfortable circumstance of having to answer the question of ‘why isn’t there another child in the house?” to not just peers, friends and parents but also to their own child, a person who is probably not even reached four feet of height.

Why the norm?

Studies indicate that many parents of two or more children have not asked themselves the question “Why should there be another child in the house?” Most parents have simply automatically proceeded to build a large family around them because it is the usual social norm and also because they want to ‘get done with it’ before getting too old.

Choice or Chance?

Conversely, many parents who have asked the sibling question “why isn’t there another child in the house yet?” have stopped with just their first child not entirely by choice but owing to many other factors some of which are:

  • Secondary infertility– While first pregnancies seem to happen rather all too easily, conceiving the second time sometimes becomes difficult for the same women. Many couples are ‘brought around’ to being satisfied with their ‘one and only’ after all their attempts to get a second child have failed. This reluctant acceptance to being just a family of three usually comes only after huge amounts of time, energy and money have been expended on getting pregnant the second time around.
  • Difference of opinion between spouses– When one spouse wants a second child and the other doesn’t, the chances of the second child not happening is higher. Usually, when the marriage is shaky or when there is a huge age gap between the partners, one of the spouses expresses reluctance to expand the family.
  • Divorce, death or illness– If a spouse is disabled or afflicted by a serious illness or if the couple or divorced, a second child becomes improbable.

While there are many other reasons for more couples wanting just one child, the above reasons mainly tell us about those couples who want a larger family yet stop with just one. Couples who want a second child but are unable to bring forth one experience a range of emotions like sadness, resentment, loneliness, inadequacy and sometimes envy too.

And often these feelings percolate down to their only child who feels without a sibling he is missing out on something. Sometimes it is the parents who implant the feelings of incompleteness in their only child, which triggers the child to ask the ‘sibling question’- Why is there not another child in the house?

How to tell your child that one is complete enough:

Children can sense their parent’s unexpressed emotions and inner feelings too. So the first step towards assuring your child that one child in the house is indeed enough. The parents themselves have to come to terms with the idea that a family of three is indeed a complete number. Parents who feel disappointed about not being able to have a second child have to address their inner feelings and come to a truce with their circumstance first.

When your child asks why he cannot have a brother or a sister, you can state the truth to him as simply and as gently as possible. If it is a medical or financial or marital state that is preventing you from expanding your family, tell the child so even while explaining to him that you are ‘very very happy with just him’.

Studies indicate that children crave for a brother or sister with intensity directly proportionate with the parent’s. Hence it is critical that both parent and the child come to the ground reality and address the issue as objectively as possible.

 Posted by at 7:40 am
Feb 062008

Only Child Stereotypes and the real truth

The notion of an only child, the indulgence he supposedly enjoys, the loneliness he reportedly experiences, and the narcissistic approach to life he assumedly displays, is all so entrenched in the common psyche that it will take time and convincing to view these ‘accepted truths’ as myths.

It is largely believed that the only child who displays some or all of the above mentioned characteristics has acquired it due to parental attitudes of lavishing excessive attention and also due to the lack of a sibling. It is common belief that doting parents on the one side and absence of a rivaling sibling on the other leaves the only child overly indulged and spoiled. Are these perceptions true or are they mere myths? Five of the most popular myths surrounding the only child are:

Myth #1: An only child is very lonely

This is one of the toughest myths to explode. Most parents of only children are haunted by the fear that they are allowing the only child to grow up ‘alone’ and are leaving him to tackle the world alone without a companion from the ‘family’ to fall back upon.


Only children are comfortable being alone and are able to keep themselves engaged without being too dependant on playmates or friends. Being alone is not the same as being lonely. Also, a presence of a sibling does not guarantee continual happiness and company for life for your child.

Myth #2: An only child is spoiled

This is everyone’s favorite stereotype which they love to play again and again. Psychologists use the term “dethronement” to describe the status of an erstwhile only child who has recently acquired a sibling. The child who till then was the center of his parent’s world, who was cynosure of all eyes, who enjoyed the ‘royal’ treatment, gets ‘dethroned’ the moment another child comes into the picture.

Sooner or later the child comes to terms with the reality of having to share and compromise with the sibling and carry on with life in a non-fussy and sportive manner. On the other hand, an only child never gets dethroned and continually enjoys the undivided attention of his parents, giving rise to the myth that hence he must be thoroughly spoiled.


While it is true that an only child enjoys unrivaled attention from his parents, it is however a false notion that such attention would leave him spoiled . The extent of a child’s good or bad behavior is dependent on the kind of nurturing he receives and the limits set by the parents for him. It is entirely within the parents’ control and ability to bring up a well behaved only child by offering him affection and attention that is balanced and nourishing rather than being lopsided and overwhelming.

Myth #3: An only child is selfish

An only child must but be selfish. After all what does he know about sharing and caring? Hasn’t he grown alone and wouldn’t his parents have spoiled him with their lavish attention? This is yet another popular myth.


All young children are selfish and possessive about their toys and playthings. Again, in their adolescent years, while hormones change and cause physical and mental changes, children may display an aggressive attitude that could be misconstrued as selfishness.
Selfishness is not a trait exclusive to only children. Children with siblings can also be selfish. Truth is, parents can foster the habit of sharing by monitoring how their only child shares his playthings with his friends and playmates.

One does not need a sibling to know how to share and care. A mother of an only child reports to have inculcated the habit of sharing in her daughter by daily offering a portion of food from her own plate to the child. And while doing so, the mother reinforced the fact that she was only sharing her food and not giving it all away. This practice allowed the child a glimpse into the act of sharing without having to be deprived of one’s rightful share.

There are other factors that also come into play. Consider this: Unlike in the multi-child family, the only child does not have to fight for toys, space and attention. He is more willing to share because: 1) he hasn’t had to fight for the things that are shared, and 2) he feels secure in sharing because he know it is all his in the end- to him, sharing does not mean giving away.

Myth #4: An only child is not sociable

Many believe that having grown up alone, an only child is maladjusted, unhappy and reluctant to mix with people as readily as other children. People assume that only children prefer to be alone, and prefer solitary and non-competitive amusements over interactive engagements. It is assumed that the unsociable only child will grow up to be an unsociable and aloof adult.


Growing up alone is not the same as being lonely. In most multi-child families, sibling rivalry is common. This does not automatically mean that children coming out of these families grow up to be bitter, mean and unfriendly adults. Similarly, an only child will not automatically turn into an unsociable and aloof adult. On the contrary, parents of an only child find more time to engage their child in a variety of activities where he will get to socialize and make friends. Since this parenting time need not be shared with other kids, onlies have the added advantage of having an activity-filled childhood.

Myth #5: An only child is dependant

Only children are very tied to their parents emotionally. They also get waited upon, which makes them very dependant in their later years. Now, is this myth or fact?


A child growing up to be independent or dependant is directly connected with the freedom and boundaries set by his parents. A parent with continual attention can bring up a clingy and dependant child, while an aware parent can inject confidence and courage into a child by allowing him small freedoms to make him independent. This has no correlation with having a sibling in the family but rather has a direct relationship with the parental decision to bring up a child who is confident and independent.Small tasks around the house, tiny errands across the street, occasional sleepovers and camping out can foster independence in the minds of growing children, irrespective of whether they are single or with siblings.

Consider this: Only children do not have siblings to help them out at school or even at home when they get into trouble. They start learning to be independent in many areas of their life. This coupled with the close parenting typically received, onlies often tend to live independent lives, and they even relish that lifestyle. They value their time-alone, and doing things by themselves, and do not confuse it with being lonely. Parents can be very helpful when they understand this, recognize it, and nurture the multi-faceted characteristics of onlies.

 Posted by at 7:36 am
Feb 062008

Read this article to see if you fit into one of these categories of people who have just one child….

Prior to the 1930’s, before the advent of vaccinations for children and birth control, multi children families were a norm rather than an exception. It was common to see parents left with seven or more children even after losing some to diseases.
With advancements in medical sciences and a drastic reduction in infant mortality rates, it is no longer a risky proposition to limit the number of children. There are couples who have taken a step further by restricting themselves to just a single child and keep the family small. The reasons are various:

  • An obvious one: Birth control methods allow the parents to plan their family and make it a matter of choice rather than a ‘gift from above’.
  • More and more women are opting for full-fledged careers in hitherto male domains. Many get married late and further defer giving birth to a child as it may hamper their career graph.
  • When couples with a single child allow a huge time gap to lapse before deciding on their second child they would have often crossed the ‘ideal biological time’. Such couples may opt to keep the family small and have only one child instead of risking a second child at an advanced age.
  • Bringing up a child is no child’s play! The costs involved are enormous. A variety of people are finding sense in having just one child and offering it their best.
  • Busy couples with fast-track careers opt for a single child to satisfy their parental desires without compromising on their careers.
  • Infertile couples who opt for adoption often stop with just one child as the expenses involved in adoption are huge.
  • There are parents who decide to be just a family of three in order to avoid complexities such as sibling rivalry, increased demands on themselves and rising expenses. On the other hand, they take pleasure in investing their entire energies on their single child and revel in the positives of having a small family.
  • When divorce occurs early in the marriage, the couple is left with a single child when in reality the family has not really had a chance to grow.

While reasons for having an only child keep growing, the commonest non-medical reason for parents to increasingly favor smaller families is to maximize on their resources and to provide their financial and emotional best to their one and only.

What is your reason? Say it in the comment box below………

 Posted by at 7:09 am
Feb 062008

The Only Child: Owner’s Manual Concludes

Some of the things discussed in the articles are:

  1. Having an Only Child is not an insensible thing to do,
  2. You can have the best of both worlds!
  3. Obstacles are not insurmountable or deeply problematic.
  4. Keys to success: Appreciate, Moderate, Encourage, Assess, Build, and Let Go.
  5. Benefits of having an only child far overweigh its disadvantages.

It’s ok to have an only…

Is stopping with only one child a sensible thing to do? Alicia, mother of an only child, says: “I had my first baby when I was thirty four. I am not sure I want to go through it all over again. I neither feel guilty saying this nor do I feel obliged to give my only child a sibling. We are perfect as a family of three and I am content” she concludes rather categorically.

A Growing Pattern

With career becoming a priority among women too, with rising costs and late marriages, only child families are increasingly becoming commonplace and hopefully soon there will be no stigma attached to it. Nations at a macro level and families at a micro level are recognizing the advantages and positives of having a smaller family.

“I think having an only child is somewhat like having the best of both worlds. Your career does not suffer, you have more time, you have better control of your emotional and financial resources and your attention is focused on your only child, which is a great thing…the benefits of having an only child far outweighs its disadvantages. I think a family of three is really a very very good idea,” remark Pat and Ron.

While raising an only child does have its hitches and hiccups, the obstacles are not insurmountable or deeply problematic. Correct information on how to raise an only child coupled with the right parental attitude will ensure that your only child grows into a balanced, caring and responsible adult.

To summarize –


Appreciate that you are a family of three. Those couples who wanted a second child but were unable to do so owing to medical or financial reasons must soon reconcile their position and enjoy the child on hand. Appreciate and acknowledge the joy and meaning you give each other as a close knit family of three.

At the next level, appreciate the child. Never fail to give him a pat on the back or drop a complimentary word or two. Parents tend to forget that even older children need words of encouragement and appreciation. Also, value your child as he is. Do not crowd him with your over-expectations and do not impose your dreams and ambitions on him.

On the flip side, do not go overboard and indulge your child by over-praising him. “While it is easy to appreciate and praise your child when he is really young and adorable, the whole thing gets a little sticky as your child moves into his teens and when he gets a little tight on you. Teens need the praise but don’t want to necessarily earn it. Victor and I gave the praise anyway and somewhere I think it helped us keep close to our growing adolescent” says June.


Whether it is praising or protecting your only child, moderation is the key. Many parents fall into the trap of interfering in their child’s fights with his peers and taking up his issues on his behalf. “Being there” for your child does not include total intrusion into his space and smoothening ‘everything’ out for him.

Avoid the pitfalls “I would have learnt how to deal with people early on in my life if only my parents weren’t interfering into every situation of mine and tackling it on my behalf” says only adult Zach. As parents, your only child may be extremely precious to you. But he has other people to contend with who do not share your opinion of him. Criticisms, fights, compliments and praise are a part of his life too, and you must allow him to deal with it on his own terms and not yours. By over-praising you are merely going to paint a rosy picture of the world and later it may come as a shock to your child.

Moderate everything, except love.


Encourage your only child to form bonds outside the family. Help him bond with his peers by fixing playmates for him, by providing opportunities to meet other children of his age. Encourage him to ask you questions and have open conversations with you.

Answer questions on the sibling issue without discomfort. As a parent, approve and encourage his positive traits and allow him to blossom. Above all, give the child his time alone and encourage time alone as a habit rather than as a last option to exercise in the absence of a friend or any other play engagement. “A child has many facets to himself- many talents and strengths. Each child is unique and it is really up to the parents to recognize and foster those traits and talents.

Encouragement is the key here. You allow for certain positive things to happen and you nourish that habit/talent/trait.


It is a good idea to periodically step back and assess your role as a parent, the job you are doing as a parent, and finding out the needs of not just your child but your own needs too. Questions you can ask yourself-

  • Am I doting too much on my only child because she is my only child? Am I in anyway, through my attitude, giving room for the stereotypical only child to be groomed in my home?
  • Are we as a couple nursing any regrets about not having a second child, and are we in any way percolating it down to our only child?
  • Being a family of three is great. But are we constantly keeping our child in adult company and unconsciously making her participate in adult-oriented activities? Is my child getting enough of her peers and age group?
  • Is my child too individualistic for her own good? Is she a mini-adult? Am I ensuring that I am letting the child remain a child?

…time for some self-assessment

“Natalie and I love to review not just our finances but our role as parents too. We try to see how to make our son’s childhood better by cultivating the right parental attitude. This kind of stepping back to look at ourselves is a terrific exercise and it helps keep tabs on our child and ourselves too” says John.


There are many things you can build for your child and around your child.

  • Build a support system around yourself consisting of family, friends and relatives. Share your child with other willing care givers too. Let your child bask under the attention of uncles, aunts and friends too. This way you give your child an extended family and a larger circle of people she can connect with, and as for you, you could approach the support system when you need time alone for yourself or as a couple.
  • Build relationships with your only child’s teachers and the parents of her peers. This will allow you to enjoy a certain comfort level for yourself and build a solid foundation of relationships for your child.
  • Build tolerance and understanding for your only adolescent. More than anything, your adolescent needs attention and allowance (not just financial- but emotional too). Look at it as an investment you make on your child for her better development.
  • Build an ambition- without going overboard, you could build an ambition for your child and help her achieve her potential.

Most famous only children look back to the role their parents played in helping them achieve the position they enjoyed. Without pressurizing your child and without impinging her with your expectations, you can encourage and motivate your child to excel in a chosen field.

Let go

Enrolling your child in a regular mainstream school and watching your tiny bundle of joy walk into a huge building can be a very emotional experience, and it is. Technically, it is the first “letting go” act a parent experiences vis-a-vis his child. Believe it or not, that thick lump in your throat does not diminish in size or pain when you see your only child all grown up and strapping, ready to leave for college. During the course of her growing years, there would be many opportunities that can teach you the art of letting go even while you hold on to your child and the love you nurse for her.

A good part of bringing up an independent child lies in the act of letting go. A parent who is too scared to allow his only child to ride the bike must let go. A parent who is too ambitious for his only child must let go of the idea. The bottom line being, you allow spaces in your togetherness and you allow your child to get a taste of lessons of life without you intervening all the time with a protective umbrella over her head. “We may be adults when our child is first born to us- but we really begin to evolve and grow only with our child. The growth is as joyous and as painful as the process of birth itself” says a teary eyed Judy as she packs her daughter’s bags for college. “Holding on is so easy. Letting go is tough. But I will learn that too. I don’t want our daughter to be held back in anyway because of us,” she says as she understands that after college her daughter may move to a different state or even a different country.

One child- the only way to go?

In today’s world of rapid changes and greater demands, couples who decide on having only one child still nurse doubts on their decision. An oft heard question is- “Is it alright to have just one child?” The answer is it is not just alright it is also wonderful to have just one child. “The initial years- especially when I was well within the biological age of having another child, I nursed lots of doubts. But better sense prevailed and we stopped with just one. I think we have done wonderfully well as parents towards our son. He is a caring, affectionate and a strong boy. Nowhere close to the stereotypical only child,” says Alexia, a proud parent of an only child.

Sibling Rivalry

“My friends would be complaining about their siblings. They would be peeved and annoyed. Each time I heard something like that, I would thank my lucky stars that I was a single child. My books were mine, my CDs were mine and above all my parents were fully mine” laughs Jonathan an only child.
Some parents worry about leaving their child ‘alone’ as much as only children worry about their aging parents. But the reality is that many siblings do not support each other for life, just as the fact that despite multiple children, aging parents often opt to remain only with one of their children. The presence of a sibling is not a protective measure for a better future.

In the end, it’s all about parenting

Raising an only child has its share of joys and peculiar challenges. But being an only child does not in any way obstruct the child from growing into a balanced, responsible and caring adult.

Parents can foster and nourish any and all the qualities in their child which the child would have gained in the company of a sibling. Largely, it is the right parental attitude that decides the personality of the only child and not the fact that he is without a sibling. So, if a couple were to ask if an only child is a good way to go, it is. It surely is.

“I was an only child to my parents and I have an only child too. I think my childhood was blissful. As an adult too, I have not missed having a sibling. Friends and cousins more than make up for it. I can now see our son enjoying the same kind of attention and focus from us. We are very happy to be a family of three. One child is just perfect” says Max with a flourish.

 Posted by at 12:26 am

The Future of Your Only Child, by Carl Pickhardt (Book Review)

 Book Reviews  Comments Off on The Future of Your Only Child, by Carl Pickhardt (Book Review)
Jan 182007

The Future of Your Only Child: How to Guide your child to a happy and successful life
, 248 pages. Published 2008, Palgrave Macmillan, NY
ISBN: 978-1-4039-83173-3, 1-4039-8417-4

The author, Carl E. Pickhardt, Ph.D., has also written titles like Keys to Successful Step fathering, The Everything Parent’s Guide to the Strong-Willed Child, The Everything Parent’s Guide to Positive Discipline, and The Connected Father. He lives in Austin, Texas, USA.

I will start off this review by quoting the author, Dr. Pickhardt:

“It is the cumulative force of various dynamics, not the power of any single one, which sets the only child family experience apart from that of families with multiple children”

Source Material

This book examines various factors that shape the characteristics of any child, and thus guide parents to raise their only child. It is based not only on research of various papers and books on only children, but also on the author’s experience counseling only children, parents of only children and adult only children.

Much of the author’s philosophy and writing is based on the concept of Birth Order. The book discusses various birth orders and their influences on the behavior of a child. The author writes that only children have the characteristics of both the first born and the last born child, and describes the ones related to the first born in detail. However, I wish he had delved deeper into the comparison/description of the last born child.

In this book, Dr. Pickhardt writes about 15 family dynamics and parenting practices that shape the character of an only child. He discusses the pros and cons as well as provides solutions to each. This review contains excerpts from the first 5 dynamics.

  1. Attention: Since there is constant attention from parents, an only child feels special and wonderful. Therefore, they tend to have higher self esteem, self worth, and self importance. On the problematic side, they can become self-centered. Solution: Parents need to respect the only child’s privacy and occasionally give him a break from the constant attention.
  2. Sensitivity: The author describes how over-sensitive treatment can lead to an over-sensitive child. An only child enjoys close attachment with parents which makes her a very emotionally sensitive child. The advantages: an only child will grow up into a careful and sensitive adult and will develop strong and good relationship with others. The cons: an only child can be over sensitive and at times can hold on to the hurt. Solution: Encourage play dates with peers to emotionally toughen up the child and teach their only child the skills of making up.
  3. Constancy: Parents tend to provide more security to their only child by creating order and consistency. This makes an only child more organized and a careful planner. On the downside, he can become a control freak and lack flexibility and adaptability. This will cause problems in adulthood, especially in marital life. Parents need to teach their only child resilience. Their child needs to learn the skills and confidence to handle changes.
  4. Friendship: Onlies tend to have fewer friends than children from multiple-child families. They are quite comfortable being by themselves or with their parents. Being comfortable with oneself helps to be creative and also helps the only child create social stability especially during the adolescent period when kids are under peer pressure. The only child has confidence in himself and has less need to succumb to peer pressure. The drawbacks: the only child tends to look for more matured relationship hence might choose partners or friends much older. Parents should be less socially possessive of their child and encourage peer play and accept their child’s friends.
  5. Willfulness: Generally, parents tend to over-indulge their only child. Also, in a three member family, the only child is often included in decision making and thus has an adult-like standing. An only child usually sticks to his values, and does not easily give into peer pressure. Disadvantages: he can have delayed adolescent changes or become too stubborn and set in his ways. Parents can help the only child in controlling his willfulness during childhood by setting limits, treating the child as a child, and minimizing exceptions to normal social conformity.
  6. Attachment
  7. Conflict
  8. Rectitude
  9. Ambition
  10. Responsibility
  11. Possessiveness
  12. Approval
  13. Dependence
  14. Pressure
  15. Anxiety

Another plus point about this book: most other books do not talk about the characteristics of an adult only child. Unless we understand the traits of adult onlies, we cannot influence a child’s upbringing such that he will be free from the negative aspects of being an only child.

Having read other books on the only child, some of the information was naturally bound to be repetitive for me- I wish it had been little shorter. At times I felt that the author casted a wide net and almost everyone could fit his description, a drawback common to all books on only children.

I have personally implemented some suggestions from this book, and have benefited from them. Each dynamic (there are 15) is addressed in a different chapter- the reader can go directly to that subject when the need arises.

This is the latest book (published 2008) on the only child, and deals comprehensively with the subject. It has a refreshing take, and is well organized.

I recommend this book not only to first time readers of the topic, but also to those who have read other books on the only child.


 Posted by at 3:02 am
Jan 172007

Why parents can stop with having just one child

Parenting an Only Child: The Joys and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only, by Susan Newman (Review 1)

Paperback: 268 pages, Publisher: Doubleday

Perhaps you are the parent of an only child, or are newlyweds considering having just one child or are older parents guilty of limiting your family size to just one child. This book comes specially addressed to all of you, after the author Susan Newman, (herself the mother of just one child) delved deep into the trend of American couples choosing to have one child.

In her book Parenting an Only Child—The Joys and Challenges of Raising your One and Only, she presents the opinions of a large cross section of parents across America who reminisce their reasons for sticking to the one child formula. Her book, spanning three sections and over 200 pages, does a lot to strengthen the case of only children in a world made up of nuclear families, sometimes broken by divorce.

Besides, Newman’s research proved that with every passing decade the number of only children increased and brought in their wake not the traditionally known “onlies” who were spoiled brats who didn’t know how to share their things, and were selfish, domineering, lonely and self-centered monsters but quite the opposite.

She found that while the number of such children were on the rise, they grew up to be better educated with good manners, and were successful, dynamic, outgoing, mature, extroverts, had leadership skills, were more creative than their peers and did better academically. This not only debunked the myths that surrounded onlies but strengthened the reasons parents put forth for not having a family of many siblings.

Often, young parents are nudged into having a large family by their parents who want to be surrounded by grandchildren, no matter what repercussions it has on the young couple. The other reasons are:

  • Women had transitioned from being homemakers to being career women who couldn’t throw away good career opportunities to have a baby. Besides, having another child can alter the direction of their lives immensely—something they aren’t prepared for.
  • With children being immunized, the infant mortality rate had dropped drastically, so mothers didn’t have to resort to have many children in case some of them died
  • With divorce rates constantly on the rise, young women find it practical to have just one child since, as single parents, they can afford to look after just one child.
  • Young working couples prefer a peaceful home environment rather than one fraught with sibling rivalry
  • Late marriages deter middle aged women from having more than one child since physically they are not up to having a second.
  • Couples can assure a better quality of life to one child.
  • With more women adopting children, they find they can manage only one child. This limits the family size to one

Besides, couples chose to have an only child because they can have that one person they can love, teach, educate and explore the world with. And, they have the advantage of having their parents’ attention to the extent of having them read to the child at night, because of “their exposure to cultural events” and “because of the extra insights they have culled from being around adults more than children with many siblings.” This premise of time spent with one’s parents results in the child having a “strong sense of security” and a “desire to achieve.”

Couples, she found, were also reluctant to have more children because this meant marital dissatisfaction and a curtailment of their personal freedom, as revealed in the chapter titled Personal Issues. With their attention being divided among many children, parents often feel guilty of not doing their best for their children, besides not being able to do what they want to with their time. A practical difficulty arises when the mother is invited out—she can’t tug along so many children with her, but taking one along makes the mother and child welcome.

In Part II, Newman gives handy tips to parents on how to look after their only child in situations as wide-ranging as delegating responsibility to your child to not overprotecting them to teaching him to respect his seniors. By teaching him socially acceptable behavior early in life, he becomes a confident and mature individual, and learns to respect the boundaries in which he operates.

However, Newman cautions you not to lay “great expectations” on the shoulders of your only child as this lays great pressure on him to perform and excel. Instead, if you put before him goals that can be achieved, it raises his self-esteem and he wants to take the challenge you throw at him the next time round.

You could ruin a good relationship with your only child if, for instance, you behaved like Martin Bronson’s parents. Martin believed he never lived up to his parents’ expectations, so he says, “If I got a 98, they said, ‘Why didn’t you get 100?’They demanded an improved performance for everything. I was not permitted any mistakes in any area.”

Such an “extra push” could run counterproductive to your child’s development, says Newman. If your child can’t handle stress, he will turn to your spouse for consolation, love or entertainment. That’s a sure sign that you’re turning on the stress button far too much than he can handle.

While discussing these points of raising a child effectively, Newman advises you to guard against a situation where your child runs the household and against a “state-of-the-art child” who would help any parent in our wealthy and child-centered lives.

Newman’s book is based on her personal experience of raising an only child. From her book, we can glean the joys and challenges of raising only kids—particularly if they turn out to be as high achievers as Jean-Paul Sartre, Hans Christian Andersen, Albert Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci!

 Posted by at 12:05 am