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.




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    Book Review: The Future of Your Only Child by Carl Pickhardt. Birth order and comparison to an only child’s traits. The 15 family dynamics and parenting practices that shape the character of an only child.

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