7 truths about only children: what parents should know

July 01, 2016
  • Debunking the myths behind only children
    1 / 8 Debunking the myths behind only children

    Child psychologist Dr Richard C. Woolfson debunks seven myths about only children.

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  • Myth 1: They are spoilt
    2 / 8 Myth 1: They are spoilt

    Many parents of only children worry that they will grow up to be spoilt because they have everything to themselves, and never have to worry about competing with another kid in the family. 

    However, research has found that an only child is no more likely to be spoilt than a child who has at least one other sibling.

    Having her parents’ love, attention and resources all to herself does not automatically make a child spoilt – it all depends on how she is managed at home.

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  • Myth 2: They are precocious
    3 / 8 Myth 2: They are precocious

    The stereotype of the only child is a bespectacled upright kid, dressed in rather adult-looking clothes, conducting a mature conversation with a grown-up, using lofty vocabulary and long-winded sentences, while nodding wisely. 

    If that happens, it has nothing to do with the kid being the only one in her family, and has everything to do with the way her parents raise her – if she had brothers or sisters, they would also dress, speak and behave in the same manner. 

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  • Myth 3: They think only of themselves
    4 / 8 Myth 3: They think only of themselves

    All young children are egocentric, in that they see the world only from their own perspective. 

    Toddlers, in particular, think that the world revolves around them and they explode with rage when they can’t get their own way. That happens whether or not a kid has siblings. 

    Of course, an only child doesn’t have to think of others at such a young age the way children from a larger family do, but she does have to think about her peers as soon as she starts preschool.

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  • Myth 4: They are lonely and unhappy
    5 / 8 Myth 4: They are lonely and unhappy

    There is absolutely no evidence from research studies to suggest that only children are especially prone to sadness, loneliness, unhappiness or other any other negative emotion. 

    When you think about it, there is no reason why they should be. They are the centre of attention at home, and when they want friends, their parents can easily arrange a play date. So they don’t need to be on their own.

    Anyway, many kids with siblings are unhappy when they don’t get along with their brothers and sisters.

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  • Myth 5: They can’t work in a team
    6 / 8 Myth 5: They can’t work in a team

    On the contrary, research has found that only children tend to work very well in teams and often make good leaders. 

    An only child frequently shows excellent initiative when required to do so as part of a team.

    It seems that mixing mainly with adults during her early years teaches her how to plan ahead, anticipate challenges that other kids might not immediately see, and organise strategies to get the best out of those around her. These skills facilitate good teamwork.



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  • Myth 6: They can’t share properly
    7 / 8 Myth 6: They can’t share properly

    For most children, sharing is a skill that has to be taught – it rarely comes naturally because a kid typically wants to keep all her toys and sweets to herself. 

    Growing up with siblings means she gains experience of this skill early on, as sharing is part and parcel of everyday family life. 

    But parents of an only child can easily take time to teach her by explaining why sharing matters, by practising sharing with her at home, and by setting a good example.


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  • Myth 7: They can’t take turns
    8 / 8 Myth 7: They can’t take turns

    An only child cannot possibly play games successfully with other children unless she can take turns, and she may be concerned solely with herself at first. 

    However, there are many opportunities at home for parents to teaching this social skill to their only child.

    Waiting a couple of minutes to tell you a piece of news, or waiting till Dad gets a biscuit before she does, allows her to experience turn-taking as a normal part of family life.  


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