Raising an Only Child

Keep Splurging to a Minimum

Keep gifts in check. Experts warn that when onlies are bombarded with gifts and their every wish is fulfilled, they get the message, "I always get what I want."

It's never too late to rein in excessive gift-giving, notes Pickhardt. Emotional protests will likely follow, but taking this stand will be beneficial in the long run. Parents need to realize that it's not the gifts that matter; it's time spent with the child that's most important.

Don't overindulge your child. During early childhood, an only child's expressions of need are responded to quickly. In contrast, children with siblings need to "wait in line" to have their needs met. And learning how to wait, says Dr. Tanner, is a vital lesson.

To prevent only children from developing an attitude of "What I want, I get," parents should:

  • Set limits
  • Delay gratification
  • Stick to household rules
  • Instill discipline through guidelines and expectations

Parents of onlies also have to learn this valuable lesson: You can't get hung up on the notion that your child always has to be happy. If you dote on your only child and satisfy his every whim, you'll regret doing so in the long run, says Pickhardt. One of the repercussions of such overindulgence: Some onlies want to have everything on their own terms. They develop a mentality of, "It's either my way or no way at all."

As experts and parents note, the undivided attention an only child receives from his parents can be either a positive or negative force. But if you avoid some of the common pitfalls and offer your only child your unconditional love, he will no doubt thrive. In fact, many parents of onlies say that their relationship with their child is like a wonderful friendship. Best of all, they say, it's a great friendship that lasts a lifetime!

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