(Please Note: We have 2 reviews of this book. This is the first one. The second review appears elsewhere. Book reviews do not necessarily reflect the views of the Only Child Project website – Admin)
Book: The Only Child: Being One, Loving One, Understanding One, Raising One- by Darrell Sifford (Review 1)
The part about parenting which everyone agrees on is that it’s tough. There’s no single formula nor does parenting follow a pattern. Families with single children face specific issues. The kind of personality which the only child develops depends on the manner in which the parents tackle these issues. As the title says, this book is about the only child, the parents of an only child and people associated with only children. The author is an only child himself and the book reflects a strong sense of empathy with single children. The author draws heavily from his own life to illustrate several concepts and this endows the book with a personal touch and makes it easy to read.
Is loneliness always bad?
The only child is often stereotyped as being lonely and the author tackles this issue in a novel manner. He emphasizes the advantages which an only child enjoys; he does this by examining several case studies of families with multiple children. The underlying theme of these case studies is to emphasize the undivided attention which is showered on the only child by his parents. This attention reinforces the intrinsic self worth of the child and results in the only child developing into a self confident individual. According to the author, this self confidence is instrumental in shaping the personality of an only child and is responsible for the disproportionate success in life enjoyed by single children. The special rapport between single children and their parents is a recurring theme in the book. The acute sense of loss experienced by single children on the passing of their parents is another issue which has been dealt with in a sensitive manner by the author.
Parents and their aspirations
Perfectionism can be very frustrating if carried too far, the book examines this aspect of an only child through the works of several contemporary authors, most of them psychologists. In most of the cases, the underlying reasons for the quest of an only child towards perfection can be traced to the family environment.
Parents have aspirations and it is often the responsibility of the single child to shoulder the burden of parental expectations. The only child has a deep desire to please his parents. Nothing short of the best is acceptable in all spheres of life for the only child and this is the beginning of a lifelong pursuit of perfection.
The role of parents in setting goals based on learning instead of performance will go a long way towards helping the only child into becoming a well adjusted adult.
The importance of developing a balanced outlook on life should be inculcated in an only child in her childhood. Another important issue highlighted by the author is the need of the single child for constant approval and reassurance.
The Perils of Perfection
The quest for perfection can easily lead to a compulsive personality. The burden of parental expectation is often the underlying reason for this quest for perfection. Compared to a child with siblings, the only child is much more susceptible to seek perfection. The book analyzes the various facets of this issue in an objective fashion. Some relevant aspects are discussed below.
The author has identified several patterns of behavior in families with single children which contribute to this quest for perfection. The present day world places an undue emphasis on professional success, in this scenario it is easy to succumb to the pressures of one’s work environment and allow it to dominate one’s life.
This leads to an unbalanced lifestyle where one’s profession overshadows all other aspects of what constitutes a healthy life. The only child has always been regarded by her parents as special and in a world which values success it is but natural that they are more prone to let professional success dictate their lives.
Guarding against stereotypes
“The spoiled only child” is a recurring stereotype in public perception. The book examines the exaggerated sense of self importance which most single children might possess and the disillusionment which they face when they realize that the world doesn’t revolve around them. The section on what parents of single children can do to avoid this situation is structured well and offers concrete recommendations through several examples of effective parenting and the importance of guarding against over indulgence.
Parents of an only child should guard against overprotecting their children. Most parents of single children share a reluctance to let their child lead an independent life. In many cases when single children are unwilling to risk a confrontation with their parents, they grow up to be dependent adults. The perils of not knowing when to let go are discussed by the author in a sensitive manner, he examines both sides of the argument with the help of several examples. The author realizes that the parents of an only child will form a significant part of the book’s readership and hence has devoted a significant part of the book towards parenting. He has outlined several models of parental behavior. These models will benefit the parents of an only child considerably.
Examples make it easy
The book is easily comprehensible scoring a high Flesch index of 62.8. Daniel Sifford writes a column for the Philadelphia Enquirer which is syndicated in more than 160 newspapers across America. His book examines the various issues confronting an only child in considerable detail. More importantly, the issue has been examined with the help of several examples; this helps us to clearly understand the process which the author has followed to reach his conclusions. While the reader may not always agree with the author and his conclusions, the book offers a valuable insight into the life of an only child. Even if the book does not provide an answer to a specific problem that you are looking for, it provides the reader with an excellent understanding of several issues which will interest both single children and the parents of an only child.