Parenting an Only Child:
The Joys and Challenges of Raising
Your One and Only
by Susan Newman Ph.D.
August 14, 2001
Chapter 6: The Specifics
Assume you have adopted a calm attitude about raising your child-you plan to raise him as if he were one of three, and you know you can control your instinct to be overprotective. Still, you must be cautious not to become so fascinated with this one young person that parental guidance and discipline go by the boards. You can instill good values, enforce rules, and work out differences without sacrificing your child's childhood or enthusiasm.
There are harmonious, simple solutions to the possible trouble spots-too much attention, too much parental assistance, too much power within the family-in raising a child without siblings. Given a genuine understanding of the only child's position, rearing one is far less taxing than raising two or more.
Center Stage: Pros and Cons
By definition, an only child has the leading role. He's the star, the center of attention, the recipient of applause, praise, and the material items you, and those close to you, can afford and wish to give. For some only children, center stage is not what it's cracked up to be. Being the recipient of the full impacts of parents' attention and affection has enormous drawbacks as well as benefits.
"I was my parents' entire life outside of work. On the one hand, I received a tremendous amount of personal attention; I liked that. On the other hand, one can't readily hide things from parents. Being the central figure is the same thing I didn't like," adult only Kenneth Briggs states frankly.
Antique dealer Bill Sheehan was less fond of his single status than Briggs. "Being the center of attention sounds like it would be a good thing, but much of the attention is negative. I did not like being front and center all the time. If there were more kids in the family, the attention would be spread out. If parents are not taking particular notice of you on a specific day, as an only child you are still their main concern."
An obvious lesson to take away from Briggs and Sheehan's comments: Don't constantly scrutinize your child; overlook something he does that you may not like but which may not be important in the scheme of development. If he's been on the phone too long with a friend or has stayed up reading too late, pretend you don't notice every now and again. Give your only a sense of privacy and his own identity, something he would automatically get if you were caring for more than one.
Chapter 6 continues explaining: how to balance receiving with giving, teach sharing and respect for others, set boundaries, realize when your child has too much support and help from his parents, stop him from running the show, and more.
Parenting an Only Child: The Joys and Challenges of Raising Your One and Only. Excerpt from pages 116-17.