Do you think that parents with a single child have more time, energy and resources? Well, that might not be true! Because there are both benefits and pitfalls that parents with one child have to be aware of. A lot also depends on the parenting style, family dynamics and the character of the child.
Recent research and reports has shown that parents are raising spoiled kids and lavishing them with what they want. It’s alarming as well as worrying to think about their future and whether they will survive in this harsh society.
How can you be a better parent to your only child, raising them to be a resilient and mindful individual? Let’s explore these twelve rules for parenting your only child.
Rule #1 Set Boundaries and Rules
It might be easier to handle tantrum of one child but that doesn’t mean that the only child should be given more leeway to throw tantrums. Set clear boundaries and rules, and don’t be afraid to stick by them and correct your child no matter where you are at. The only child you have should not grow up to think that your job is to make him happy or give him whatever he desires. Instead, allow your only child to learn the right behaviour and boundaries from young.
Rule #2 Teach Responsibility
Cleaning up after one child (as opposed to many children) seems to be easier but whether you are having one child or more, it is not possible to ‘clean up’ for them when he or she gets older. Give your child some simple responsibilities at home and have him contribute by cleaning up after he plays or even, engage in simple chores like sweeping and packing the clothes. Delegate simple tasks like packing school bag and preparing a show-and-tell item so that he can learn to be responsible for his own school-related work.
Rule #3 Teach Independence
Parent with one child might appear to have all the time in the World to coach your child on their homework or school’s project. However, doing everything for the child will rob him of the chance to be independent. Stop yourself from correcting his homework and improving his projects all the time. Having more time for your one and only child does not mean you do and monitor everything, instead guide your child and give him the chance to make his own
choices and learn from his mistakes.
Rule #4 Don’t Over-indulge
Yes, parents with only child have relatively more resources and this can be spent on toys, classes and holidays. However, no parent wants to raise a child who feels entitled and always rely on the parents. It is better if we can help them to delay their gratifications and stop buying or rewarding them with material gifts every single time. Your child should be expected to work for a reward or bear the consequences if a toy is damaged. Over-indulgence can lead to raising self-centred children who feel that they have the right to have it all.
Rule #5 Waste Not
Yes, things are more abundant for the only child. However, be mindful to teach your child to be frugal and not to be wasteful. Used toys, craft items (in good condition) should not be thrown away but instead packed nicely to donate to charity. Don’t buy more than necessary for an only child. If your child picks an item that he later dislikes, don’t rush to the toy store to get him the alternative. If your child is old enough, let him work for his purchases by helping you to do some tasks, from there, he will learn the value of money and use it more wisely.
Rule #6 Make Time Away from Only Child
Given the smaller family size, sometimes families with an only child do everything together. Parents may end up with less time to themselves and the only child may feel that the parents always have to be with him. Building a strong marriage is key – the marriage takes centre-stage in the family, not the child. The benefit of an only child is that it is easier to ask for help in babysitting and that increases the chance of more date nights!
Rule #7 Set Realistic Expectations
There are two ends to this –
i) Some parents may project their own hopes onto the child and expect the only child to be perfect and a high achiever (after all, you only have one chance at getting this ‘right’!)
ii) Other parents may not set much expectation for the only child as the three in a family have largely existed as ‘friends’ and things have been relaxed and leisurely.
Instead of veering to the two extremes, think of helping your child discover his interests and talents, and thereafter set realistic expectations for follow-through and accountability.
Rule #8 No Perfectionism
It is good to do the best we can and this should be a value to instill in our child. However, only child sometimes tends to be perfectionist. Part of this is ‘caught’ from the parents, so be mindful of your speech and actions (for instance, you may remark how you have to get a work project perfect or how the home should be spotless). Instead, try to encourage your child to focus on the process and let him know that your love is not conditional on his end results.
Rule #9 Establish Routines
For all children, a routine is beneficial – even for adults (think of how tired and crappy you’ve felt when you opted for overnight movie marathon or computer games)! An only child may have more freedom in how time is being spent, since the parents only have one child to take care of and enjoys more leisure time. However, a routine is still important to establish some form of order in daily life. Not all tasks are accomplished daily, some are during the course of a week or a month. If your child is ambitious and focuses too much of his time on his goals, it is good to take some time monthly to do something else as a family such as fun outdoors.
Rule #10 Set Playdates
If your child does not go to a pre-school, he will have very limited opportunity to interact with other children his age. Having said that, even if your child attends pre-school, he might feel lonely at times with no other children to play with at home. By arranging playdates with other families,your child can benefit much from it, especially essential life skiils such as – sharing, negotiating, taking turns and making decisions together. This is also a time of forging friendships too.
Rule #11 Be a Role Model
All parents are role models for their children, whether we like it or not. Children learn by what they see, not what they are told to do. If you are concerned that your only child will become too self-centred, then pay attention to what you do in your daily life. Share, be considerate and kind in your daily interaction with your spouse, neighbours and even to the underpriviledged. Your child will likely to pick these good values up from you!
Rule #12 Your Child is not Your Friend
While there are only three in a family, respect for one another should still be emphasized. the only child is still a child who has to respect the parents. Similarly, the parents should not treat the child as an equal and start confiding in ‘adult’ matters like finances, work stress or strained relationships with your co-workers. It is sometimes easy to forget because so much time is spent together and when your spouse is not around, you may end up ‘talking’ to your child. Here’s another reason why you should focus on your marriage.
There is much misconception on raising an only child and often, it is not so much that the child is an only child but on the parenting style adopted when there is only one child. Observe your child and make adjustments in your parenting to help the whole family to thrive.
With the new baby bonus and additional paternity leave in place, are you thinking of having a second child? Find out if you are Ready For A Second Baby? Having more than one child can be taxing on the parents but it can also bring you joys that are wonderful beyond words. Read more on the 10 Key Benefits Of Having More Than One Kid!
Written by Mei