“ Mom! Abhi has a little brother and they are playing together in their backyard. I want someone to play with.” – This was the most helpless situation I had faced during the whole quarantine period. It also made me feel guilty and sad at times as my son started fighting with his loneliness. Free mixing among children in the neighborhood was strictly prohibited, and as a result, parents faced a challenge to manage their children locked at home. Parenting an only child certainly have some benefits, but in this pandemic, I have realized that we cannot ignore the role of a sibling in a child’s happiness and well-being. There is nothing like playing, laughing, singing, dancing, even fighting with a sibling in the growing period of a child.
Challenges In Parenting A Single Child: Only Child Characteristics
There are common beliefs that only children are selfish and spoiled. As they cannot adjust easily with others, they become unsocial. On the other hand, a child grown with siblings learn the necessary life skills and valuable life lessons like sharing, caring, gratitude from an early age.
1. BECOME SELF-CENTERED:
Raising a single child gives us the opportunity to develop a close bonding with our child. He gets our undivided attention in every little step. We want to give him anything he wants and shower him with expensive items to make him happy. As a result, he becomes self-centered and indifferent to the likes and dislikes of others. It causes adjustment problems in many adolescents and teens. At the same time, he fails to realize the value of money or the importance of hard work. In many cases, he does not learn to respect others and does not appreciate his parents’ efforts to make him happy.
But when a child grows up with a sibling, he adopts many positive attributes automatically. He learns to be responsible and caring for others. He grows the habit of getting along well with the people around him. All these qualities help a man to be successful and happy in life.
2. BECOME DEPENDENT:
At the same time, parents of an only child always remain conscious and concerned so that their little one does not face any trouble. But parents’ overprotectiveness can hinder the development of a child’s personality in many ways. A child will not grow up mentally and physically strong if we constantly monitor him. We should be careful so that our children become independent and courageous to face the challenges of life. We have to raise him as competent and confident to sail smoothly through the ocean of life. But in most cases, single children become pampered and grow up as dependent. They do not get the opportunity to explore the world on their own terms. Eventually, they do not become bold enough to do something without their parent’s supervision.
3. FACE THE BURDEN OF EXPECTATIONS:
– In many cases, raising only one child makes the parents unrealistically overambitious. They want all their unfulfilled dreams to come true through their only child. Consequently, the little one has to face the burden of high expectations that lead to depression and sometimes low self-esteem. Additionally, an only child has the sole responsibility of his aged parents.
Despite all these cons, I stuck to parenting an only child because my child is my priority, and I want to provide him with the best upbringing within a controlled environment. I want to enjoy my motherhood to the full extent staying within my limits.
IS ONE KID BETTER THAN TWO?
Every family is different from the other, and it is debatable if one kid is better than two. A few years back, big families were common and it was considered an advantage to be brought up with many siblings. But now the scenario has been changed. Parents now prefer one child due to financial reasons and demanding career goals. Raising more than one child requires a lot of sacrifice and dedication. The world is getting dangerously competitive day by day, and parents are often opting to have a single child.
However, it all depends on the parenting strategy that determines whether a single child will be sharing and caring, or a child with a sibling won’t even get along well with his own brother or sister.
SO HOW TO RAISE AN ONLY CHILD WITHOUT SPOILING?
I have many friends who consider themselves privileged for being the only child. They are happy that they have gotten the whole attention of their parents and other family members. They feel lucky to enjoy all the resources and fortune of the family. According to them, all credit goes to the thoughtful parenting their parents had followed while bringing them up. Their parenting tips for raising an only child have influenced me a lot, and I want to share them with moms like me.
1. IMPROVE SOCIAL SKILLS FROM AN EARLY AGE:
Parents have to be role models to improve social skills in their children. If we show genuine empathy to our family and friends, children will learn to care for others. We must be in touch constantly with our parents and other family members and encourage our children to do so. A single child should communicate with his grandparents regularly. If possible, we can assign little responsibilities of elderly family members to our little one so that he learns to take care of others. Generosity, concern for others, patience – we can instill these values from an early age in a single child in this way.
When adult guests visit, some parents send the child away to his room and don’t allow him to interact with them. But this is a mistake. If we make it a rule to talk to the guests for some time, it would give him a chance to socialize. He would learn the appropriate greeting techniques and how to express himself. Interacting with different people will improve his interpersonal skills also. Parents must allow a single child to mix with the neighborhood children so that he learns how to play as a team. His problem-solving skills also enhance this way, and he does not feel lonely and unhappy.
2. BECOME ACCESSIBLE:
Hectic work schedule and too much addiction to social media have made the new age parents more inaccessible to the children. It upsets a child and makes him feel lonely if a parent does not pay proper attention to him. A child without a sibling needs parental support so that he can share his experiences and feelings with them at any time without any hesitation. Parents should not be judgemental at every point also otherwise the child will stop sharing his stories.
3. HELP YOUR SINGLE CHILD TO BE GROUNDED:
Not to raise a spoiled only child, parents should avoid over pampering him. There is a common tendency of parents to shower the single child with expensive gifts and toys. Sometimes, to compensate for their inability in spending quality time with the child, they give him anything he wants. Consequently, he cannot differentiate between ‘need’ and ‘desire’.
If parents set some limits and rules for gifting, then even a single child would get the message that he has to earn the gift as a reward by doing something good. “ You cannot get whatever you want” – this rule can help a single child to stay grounded. At the same time, it teaches him to be grateful for every little thing life offers him.
4. GIVE RESPONSIBILITIES:
Parents should distribute some household responsibilities to the little hands to grow self-efficacy in him as an adult. Taking care of a pet, helping grandparents and mom with simple chores, or cleaning his own mess make a child responsible and confident. This habit can benefit him throughout his entire life. An only child would feel mature and connected to the family in this way.
So raising an only child needs thoughtful parenting so that he develops his own individualism while maintaining a close bonding with his parents. Though we are responsible for denying him sibling love, I believe strongly that our love, care, and support will help our only child to live a problem-free and happy adulthood by breaking all the negative stereotypes.