Is One Really the Lonliest Number?

The debate about having only one child continues.

My dad recently gave me a Wall Street Journal article entitled A Dose of Sibling Rivalry: For Only Child Families, New Thinking Pushes Kid-Time, Sharing and Squabbling.

This article discusses how parents of only children are finding ways to socialize their sole off-springs in to assure their child is socially compatible with others given there is not a sibling relationship to learn from.

What I found interesting is the article does not discuss several key factors that are critical when discussing only children and socialization. Here’s an example.

Parents say it’s important to rein in the impulse to be an only child’s constant companion. When Sarah McDonald’s son, Toby, was 4, she started to feel that family life was centered too much on his desires and that the undivided attention was resulting in tantrums. So Ms. McDonald, 45, a stay-at-home mother in South Riding, Va., instituted this plan: Every afternoon for two hours, Toby is expected to knock on a neighbor’s door and find friends to play with or entertain himself in his room.

The fact that this parent is a stay-at-home mother is a key point. This means that the mom has always been home with the child and – while they do not state it – probably means the child has not attended daycare at any point.

Why is this important? Because children who attend daycare and preschool get a healthy dose of socialization and learn very quickly about the importance of sharing and interacting with other children, whether the child is an only-child or not.

I don’t think it’s fair to say that only children struggle with socialization just because they lack siblings. Sophie is a good example. She has been socialized with other children at varying ages since she began attending daycare at 4-months-old. Her preschool teachers and staff have commented that she’s quite well-adjusted for her age and doesn’t have the problems getting along wither other children and separation anxiety that many other children have.

The article also fails to address that just because you have siblings, doesn’t mean that’s the key to socialization and relationships with others. As the oldest, I was an “only child” for four years before my sisters came along. I was also the only one of my three sisters to attend preschool. The others stayed home with mom and a sibling. Granted they all share well (even now), I think they would agree that they’ve had more struggles than I in getting along with other children, and had a very difficult time leaving the nest for kindergarten due to separation anxiety.

I think the heart of parenting only children or siblings is this key line from the Wall Street Journal article.

“… Parenting styles can affect whether you end up with a happy and secure kid—or an anxious basket-case.”

Exactly! It’s about parenting and how one interacts with their children –only children or multiples.

I’m not going to write about the reasons to have – or not to have – more than one child. I’ve done that in What’s Wrong with One? But I will say, this is a tough issue and not one that can be resolved in a newspaper article or blog post. This debate is ever-present. Especially considering the first person I e-mailed when Dad dropped off this article was my sister!

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