Feb 062008

Are You Raising A Stereotypical Only Child

Research affirms that irrespective of the size of a family or number of children, parents can foster healthy attitudes and nurture a child such that he grows up to be a balanced individual. More often than not, it is the parents of only children who tend to be over-indulgent and over-anxious, hence running the risk of “turning myths about only children into self-fulfilling prophecies” according to psychologist Patricia Nachman.

When parents raise their only child in a manner similar to what the myths have been propagating- that is in an over-indulgent, over-anxious, over-protective and over-expectant way, the child grows up to be the stereotypical only child- spoiled , selfish, dependent and lonely. This can happen with children from multi-kids families too, but people tend to notice and point it out more readily when it happens with an only child!


Parents of only children may be tempted to smother their ‘one and only’ with all kinds of gifts and rewards- whether the occasion demands it or not. The line of reasoning often goes lie this: “I after all have only one child and why shouldn’t I give her the best of everything?, or, “Why shouldn’t I make her feel special with some gifts now and then?”

The Impact Of Overindulgence: Only children who are over indulged with rewards and gifts without earning it grow up with an unrealistic image of themselves. They may interpret the act of receiving abundant gifts as “I am so good that I deserve this all the time”.

Solution: If you are an overindulgent parent, then it is time for you to pause and ensure that it is either an occasion or a particular commendable act that is attracting the act of giving a gift. You don’t want a child on your hands who will end up thinking, “I am their only child and they damn well get me all that I want”.


When parents see their child playing on his own, they worry that he is lonely. In their eagerness to provide playmates and friends for their only child, parents sometimes intrude into their child’s “time alone”. This eagerness is also partly to assuage their own ‘guilt’ that they have not provided a permanent playmate to their only child in the form of a sibling.

Most parents of only children display an over-eagerness in keeping their child constantly engaged and ensuring that he is always happy and amused. If this is one kind of over-eagerness, the other is to constantly watch over their ward and stand in ready attention to smooth out things for him and step in if things get difficult for their child.

Impact Of Over Eagerness: “All pervasive” helicopter parents who cater to every stated and unstated whim cause the child to lose his private space and have problems finding his own feet.

When the parents are available constantly, the child may get confused about his identity and fail to see where his persona ends and his parents’ roles begin. The child will also tend to wait for his parents to intervene when things don’t go his way with playmates. What was convenient for him as a child will turn into a nuisance when he reaches his adolescent years. The child will resent the ever-alert state of his parents and hate their intrusion into every space of his.

Solution: While it is good to be an aware and thoughtful parent who assesses if the child is comfortable and happy, overdoing it is hardly helpful. Do not be over or under-available for your child. Be aware of the child’s entitlement to privacy and respect it.


Whenever something goes wrong with the conduct or well being of their only child, parents tend to over-analyze and get over-anxious about the whole thing. Be it bedwetting or shyness or even poor grades at school, parents of only children often ‘work’ at the problem to such an extent that it could get blown out of proportion.

Studies indicate that some parents even cite ‘lack of a sibling’ as the cause for all these problems. In the child’s later years, the parents may express their over-anxiety by imposing tight curfews or try to chaperone their adolescent child constantly. Over-anxiety is simply the predecessor of over-protection. Both are detrimental to the child’s balanced growth.

Impact Of Over-Anxiety: Children can sense parental anxiety even when it is non verbal. Parents’ anxiety will directly impact a child’s confidence and make him extremely precautious and in some cases slow to action too. Unexplained fear of physical and emotional hurt is reported in high degrees in children whose parents have been over-anxious. In the growing years, the child may turn rebellious against his over-anxious parents.

Solution: A relaxed approach to child upbringing is vital in making the child confident and secure in his steps. Don’t burden your child with your notions of stress and anxiety. Allow your child a reasonable amount of independence as she grows.

Do not threaten dire consequences each time your child ventures to climb a tree or slide down the stairs or go trekking with friends. You are not bringing up a coward and neither do you want to! Do not over-protect or under-protect your child. Be watchful of your anxiety lest it gets the better of you.


My only child is nothing less than perfect. Whatever he does is impeccable and just too marvelous- does that describe your feelings?

Impact Of Over-Praise: What a parent must understand is that excessive and ‘unearned’ praise could backfire and make the child addicted to praise and give him an unrealistic notion of his own capacity and talent.

Also, as the child grows and compares himself with other children, his parents’ ‘praise’ for his ‘enormous talent’ may not pass muster with him and fail the reality test. In such cases, the child may revert to feeling small and unsure of his own capacity since his parents’ assessment of him obviously did not match up with his peers’ and teachers’ judgment of him.

Solution: Moderate your praise. It is more important to be genuine than extravagant. It is vital that your child should look forward to a ‘real picture’ from you rather than from the outside world. Instead of saying his painting is simply ‘gorgeous’, you could temper it down and say the color combinations are pretty or that he is improving. Don’t fail to praise him where praise is due and acknowledge small achievements as well. The key is to find things to praise him about and then do it moderately.


Parents’ aspiration for their child can be both a boon and a burden. While it is indeed a parents’ duty to expect the best out of a child and set him worthy goals to achieve, it becomes a burden on the child when there is a discrepancy between the parents’ expectation and the child’s capacity.

Impact Of Over-Expectation: The more you want to raise a super child, the more the chances of your child losing his childhood in piano and tennis lessons. When you insist on your child taking a particular path, it may well turn out that it is not his path. In the long run, it may prove frustrating and difficult for your child. A sense of failure and dissatisfaction may set in, which in later years may cause irreparable damage.

Solution: The best way to give your child worthy goals, yet keep a reality check on your expectations, is to allow the child to lead the way. Parents can nourish their child’s goals by helping him sustain interest in his dream by providing supportive encouragement, and therein lies the difference between true guidance and pressurizing.



 Posted by at 8:06 am

Only Children Forums Does your Only Child fit the Stereotype?

This topic contains 3 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  JessicaK 9 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #1031


    Are You Raising A Stereotypical Only Child Research affirms that irrespective of the size of a family or number of children, parents can foster health
    [See the full post at: Does your Only Child fit the Stereotype?]

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    Carl McGraw

    Great article! I knew a guy who was an only child, and his parents never let him out to hang out with us as kids. When he grew up, he was the type to be spoiled, acted like he had everything coming to him and all of this. It’s because his parents spoiled him, protected him. If he was in the wrong, his parents would reassure him that he was okay and not doing anything bad.

    I wasn’t an only child, but I have one child myself. And I do see signs that I’m more protective towards her, but that’s the problem with being a first time parent I imagine. I myself want to have a couple more kids, but I’m sure my spoiling my first born wont go on too long. I know I’m going to be more chill than most parents out there.


    Wanda S.

    I feel back for an only child, sometimes. I say sometimes, because they are still in control. They do not have to be spoiled , selfish, dependent and lonely. I have a cousin that is this way and growing up, he was very hard to deal with. He has outgrown these typical traits and we get along much better.



    It is so true!

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