Jan 162007

Book: The Seven Common Sins of Parenting an Only Child by Carolyn White (Review 1)

(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)

Ten must-avoid sins, we already know. Now what are these seven new sins which White speaks of? Does that make it totally seventeen sins (oooops!) to avoid? Read on to know>>>

Seven parenting sins there are which parents must avoid, insists author Carolyn White but also agrees almost immediately that none there can be who has not committed at least one or more of the seven sins, most surely not parents of only children.

The author, (obviously) a parent of an only child herself and the editor in chief on the Only Child magazine has based this book on “long-term experience and research” and intends the book to be “useful in bringing up an only child” and let the parents of only child know that they are not alone in their triumphs and trials of being the parents of a single child. Carolyn White at the very beginning sets out to clarify that “I am not a sociologist or a psychologist, and this book is not meant to be a scientific or academic study. But I am a parent and educator who for years has counseled other parents throughout the world.”

Coming back to the book of Seven common sins; Now what are those cardinal sins which parents should avoid like plague? Luckily Carolyn White’s commandments are three less than the original ten. The seven vices to be shunned by parents of only child (equally applicable to parents of more than one child) are-

  1. Overindulgence
  2. Overprotection
  3. Failure to Discipline
  4. Overcompensation
  5. Seeking Perfection
  6. Treating your child like an adult
  7. Overpraising

There are seven sections in all with each sin taking up a chapter each. The book is well analyzed and each chapter has a pattern to follow.

  • The sin- what it is.
  • The consequences of committing the sin elaborated through anecdotes or case studies.
  • How the sin could be avoided
  • Finally a self test to assess if you are really committing the sin.

Emotional Vs Material

Every parenting vice mentioned above has two sides to it – the emotional and the material side. Parents may either go overboard giving or depriving their children of their emotional or material needs. More often it is a case of overdoing it rather than denying it. Parents tend to overindulge, overcompensate or overpraise their “one and only” either through excessive emotional rewards like hugs and kisses or through excessive material gifts. In their quest for raising a perfect child, they may use emotional or material compensation to reach their goals. Failure to discipline their child through effective means like drawing clear lines, setting nonnegotiable rules and directing through self example may end up in bringing up a child who is emotionally and materially smothered. The author tells you how to strike a balance between offering emotional and material rewards to a child for her good behavior and social progresses without making it into a practice of bribery.

Stress on moderation

All the seven sins are not entirely sins but good practices gone awry. A child has to be praised, encouraged to try her best, can be indulged now and then and disciplined in manner appropriate. Only when praise becomes overpraise, indulgence becomes overindulgence and disciplining becomes overbearing or totally absent does problem set in. The book invites your attention to assess where you stand vis-a-vis the seven sins and lays stress on moderating parental behavior which in turn will positively influence their own wards’. To that extent, the self tests at the end of each chapter help you ascertain your position and aid the soul searching exercise that is sure to follow.

Allied issues

Though the book’s prime focus is on the seven common parenting sins, the book also touches upon a variety of significant allied issues. To name a few of the issues parents of single child may face-

  • Searching for surrogate siblings. Are you trying to make up?
  • Divorce and its impact on the only child
  • Perils of Puberty. How to tackle your only child who is an adolescent.
  • Are you afraid of being unpopular with your only child?
  • Value of solitude. Allowing the child to be.
  • Asserting your parental right. Must you be told?
  • How to answer the “When is your next one coming?” question
  • Is threesome a bad number? And so on.

Aggressive and Arresting

Carolyn White has an arresting writing style. Laced with humor and lots of practical wisdom, she etches a deep impression in the reader’s mind with her wide experience on the subject, acquired through her interviews with “hundreds of only children and parents of only children.”

The book does a lot of plain speaking and the author indeed has to be congratulated for her tough stance. But to mention its underside, the book sometimes gets too overbearing. It speaks directly to the parents in an unapologetic fashion, without sugar coating any of the hard facts and sometimes the oft heard refrain of “Don’t do this if you don’t want your child to….” and “Did you know this is what happens if you do this….” gets grating on the ear after a while.

Do not be surprised if you yell at your kid a notch more and feel fretful about your parenting ability while reading this book. Each chapter will make one wonder, “Have I done anything right at all as a parent?” or “Oops! Dire consequence, that’s what awaits me if I give in to this sin”.

The author comes down too heavily on the “Don’t ever do this” tirade of hers. More often than not she speaks from the pulpit (given that she is speaking of sins) and successfully evokes guilt and anxiety in the minds of the readers. Basically the book gives lots and lots of advice (to think you paid for it) and warns of you some terrible consequence or other if you fail to correct your parenting style and put on your best parenting coat, boot and hat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Keep an energy drink handy, you will surely need it after the read.

Why read it?

  • Clear cut presentation of parenting problems.
  • Clear delineation of how to avoid the seven sins
  • Offers practical advice.

Why avoid it?

  • Overstates the problems and evokes anxiety and tension in their readers.
  • Book’s approach more negative than positive. Over emphasis on how and where things can go wrong rather than how things can be done right.
  • Too aggressive and didactic for matured adults to give in and enjoy.



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Only Children Forums Book: The seven common sins of parenting an only child, By Carolyn White (Review 1)

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