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Only children are smart and social

22 February
Posted by:
Michael Grose

Only children have an image problem.

It seems they, or at least, their parents always have to explain singleness or to give a reason.

This is a throwback to the days when families by default were large, and small often meant that there were medical, social or personal problems.

Not any more. Sometimes small or only is a choice. Often it’s due to leaving the fertility run a little too late. Other times, we can have one when in the past we may not have been able to have any.

One thing is certain.

If you used school achievement and self-esteem as a measure of a well-adjusted child most parents would stop at one. They repeatedly do well on those measures.

Presumably, it’s the hothouse effect where only children are more likely to be exposed to adult language and concepts in the critical early years than children in a larger brood.

The similar effect happens with first borns who are generally fully exposed to their parent’s language, thoughts (and hang-ups) for the first few life of life. A middle child by comparison probably hears more sibling language than parent language in the early years. It’s all in the math!

In my book Why first borns rule the world and last borns want to change it I wrote that only children never experience the ignominy of dethronement so they get 100% of parent attention and expectations. They get equal measures of pampering and pressure!

Single children don’t have to wait in line to use the bathroom, pass the peas to a sibling at the kitchen table, or duck and weave when a bored or irritated sibling wants to a shot at them.

It’s thought that siblings who spend a great deal of time alone aren’t socially able. But the research doesn’t stack up.
While some only children are flummoxed by teasing at school, others are so confident and vocab-rich that other children wouldn’t dare bait them.

It maybe that only children have a big advantage over other children – they spend more time alone, and so they feel comfortable in their own skins.

This self-containment and ability to go deeper into their imaginations is quite a plus for many only children. It may be also be why most only children wouldn’t change a thing about their lives.

Also it seems that parents of only children are very aware of any deficits that may come with being an only child so they compensate by making sure they have sleep overs; that they become socially active by joining sports and interests groups and they create situations where they learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Maybe, only children get this concept more easily than other children due to their maturity that comes from their onlyness.

I suspect the notion of being comfortable (in their own skins) and having parents and teachers who compensate (for any deficits) lay at the heart of successfully raising kids without siblings.

Let me know what you think on my MichaelGroseParenting Facebook page.

I'll be talking about raising only children and how parents can compensate for any deficits in my Raising Happy Kids seminars.
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