It helps for parents to keep in mind three dynamics that make the single child family unique.

First, the only child is first and last child in one, the ONLY CHANCE at parenting the parents will get, so they want to do it well and right.

Second, the only child gets ALL the social, emotional, and material parenting resources that the parents have to give.

And third, the single or only child has UNRIVALLED access to parents and everything they provide.

Combined, all three dynamics contribute to many strengths in the only child, but also create some vulnerabilities (as I suggest in THE FUTURE OF YOUR ONLY CHILD.) So here are some tips parents may want to consider.

  • RELAX. Pressure yourselves to be perfect parents and your one and only, to please you, will pressure her self to be a perfect child, so treat reasonable effort as good enough.

  • MODERATE. Exaggerate your one and only’s ordinary accomplishments and he is likely to over-estimate his own capacities, so be realistic in the praise you give and he can accurately assess himself.

  • FORGIVE. Treat your own failings, failures, and mistakes with good humor and acceptance and your one and only can learn to laugh at herself, not take herself too seriously, and lighten up her sense of responsibility.

  • SOCIALIZE. Adequately socialize your one and only in groups of peers so he can identify with age mates and learn to become comfortable not always being in control and used to conflict through the push and shove of rough and tumble play.

  • RESPECT. Positively treat your only child’s ability to entertain herself by herself and not be lonely and your one and only will come to prize this capacity to keep her self good company.

  • EXPOSE. Invite your only child to socially interact with your friends and your one and only will become competent at dealing with adults and adult authorities out in the larger world.

  • SHARE. Share who and how you are with your one and only and through this intimate connection your child can vicariously learn from your life experience.

  • ADVISE. Advise and do not judge your only child when in need of direction or correction and he is likely to avoid becoming unduly critical of him self and others.

  • SENSITIZE. Expect your only child to respond to your needs and the needs of others and she will learn not just to be an attention getter, but to be an attention giver as well.

  • REFRAIN. Refrain from arranging special exceptions for your only child out in the world so he will not feel entitled to, and expect, preferential treatment that ordinary people do not get.

Copyright, Carl Pickhardt Ph.D. all rights reserved. For permission to use this article, contact the author.