Only Child And Individualism
Psychologists in their studies have found a greater likelihood of only children growing to be more individualistic than children from larger families. Individualistic people have strong ideas and convictions which they adhere to with clarity and conviction, due to which others may see them as stubborn or eccentric.
Parents have to walk this fine line with care. On the one hand, they need to let their only child develop his own personality, ideas and convictions, and on the other hand, they should regulate and moderate this developmental path. This is what parents normally do, whether in single-child homes or in larger families.
However, parents of onlies need to be aware that:
- Siblings who would normally help in this regulation or moderation are absent,
- Lack of siblings also means undivided attention on the only child.
Clear cut preferences
The only child will be able to map his beliefs, values, likes and dislikes with a high degree of clarity. The only child’s value system will be quite deep and defined. They have a clear idea of who they are, what they like and don’t like.
The clear cut preferences again gives the only children definite ideals which they will stand by with lot of conviction.
Values and beliefs grow into ideals as children age, and this moulds their character. The child may be so entrenched in his system of beliefs and ideals that he may be unwilling to compromise (or sacrifice) his convictions for others just in order to fit in.
The underside of the three strengths
While having a strong character is a desirable trait, the child’s “strong sense of oneself” may interfere with his “sense of belonging with others”. While affirming the above three gains of clear cut preferences, ideals and strong character in the child, a parent also has to watch for the downside of these strong points. The three most common “consequences” of highly developed individualism are:
- Personal entitlement
- Older identification
These three traits may display in a child as outspokenness, stubbornness, and insistence getting one’s way.
The notion of personal entitlement arises when the child believes he and his beliefs to be more special and superior to others’ and hence expects special treatment from his peers and elders. The child may think himself “above the system” and have trouble fitting into rules, timetables and routines imposed outside of the home, as in a school or a learning center.
Solution: Parents should help their child in understanding that, while within the home, rules and regulations may be made to suit him and could be negotiated, the outside world functions differently. The parents have to make the child see that while he is the “one and only” for them, for the world outside, he is just one amongst many.
Owing to the continual and close association with elders rather than people of his own age, an only child may feel greater camaraderie with adults rather than his peers.. Being treated like a “little adult” and with the absence of a younger sibling to compare his own “child quotient” with, an only child may inculcate a set of norms and beliefs that are out of step with his age.
Solution: Parents can prevent this kind of older identification in their only child by providing him increased opportunities to interact with children of his own age. This will help the child to sufficiently identify himself with other children and detach from the “adult like” outlook to the world he may have.
It is nothing but the quality of “differentness”. Eccentrics live by their own personal ideals and have a strong sense of self identity without conforming to socially accepted norms. A child who feels distinctly and increasingly different from his peers may have trouble bonding with his equals and forming friendships. He may grow up to be a loner who is self-occupied.
Solution: Parents can channel their child’s strong individuality without compromising on their child’s social membership. Uniqueness does not have to result in isolation. Parents can prevent “differentness” in their child by offering ample social exposure and affiliation by way of activities or cultural pursuits. Parents have to teach their only child the importance of balancing their sense of oneself with their sense of belonging.