13 Effective Tips For Raising An Only Child

Single-child families are on the rise, driven by declining fertility, increased divorce rates, financial burden (1) (2), and conscious decision of parents to have only one child.

Some parents of single children may have a lingering concern about their child growing up spoiled or lonely. Furthermore, the many unflattering stereotypes about a single child being attention seekers, strange, self-centered, etc., can add to their worries.

Having siblings has its advantages, but an only child can also be raised to be a well-rounded and remarkable individual. While there might be several challenges, it is a rewarding experience. Read this post to learn some valuable tips on how to raise an only child.

Benefits Of Being An Only Child

Before we explore the tips, let’s learn about the many advantages of being an only child (2) (3).

1. Maturity: Only children show high maturity levels. Research suggests that this has to do with only children spending considerable time with their parents and adults and behaving like adults (3).

2. Intelligence: Only children show high intelligence and motivation scores. The undivided attention that they receive from their parents helps them become intelligent and articulate (2) (3).

3. Education: Parents of only children are generally well educated, and thus, give high importance to education. They invest their time interacting with children and teaching them new things. This helps only children perform well in school. Furthermore, with a lesser financial burden, a single-child family can also afford to provide a good education for their children. These factors contribute to single children being well educated (3).

4. Creativity: With no siblings around, single children spend considerable time alone. They entertain themselves by inventing new games and imaginary worlds, friends, and siblings. As a result, they tend to be creatively inclined (2).

5. Self-esteem: Parents of only children direct all their attention, love, and praise toward their child. This helps single children become self-assured and confident. In addition, constant positive reinforcement helps them build a positive self-image. Research shows that only children have high self-esteem and strong faith in their abilities (3).

How To Raise An Only Child?

If you are a parent of an only child, you might want to know how you could raise your child to be a well-rounded and friendly person. Read the following tips on how to raise an only child.

1. Encourage social interactions

Only children spend much of their time playing by themselves or with imaginary friends. This can cause them to struggle in their social interactions. Hence, it is vital to encourage them to engage in social activities with their peers and spend time with someone their age (3).

Ensure you arrange for regular playdates with children their age. This way, your child will learn to share their toys, home, your attention, etc., and understand how to adjust. Such interactions will also help them develop their social skills.

2. Demonstrate important relationship values

Children with siblings learn important relationship values by interacting with their siblings. Only children, on the other hand, may miss out on such valuable experiences. Demonstrating relationship values such as compromising, sharing, accepting wins and losses with grace, and showing thoughtfulness can help them handle the intricacies of relationships in the future.

3. Avoid excess hand-holding

Only children can rely excessively on their parents at times. While it is natural for children to rely on their parents, overdependence can be unhealthy. So, take a step back and let your child cope with certain issues independently. This autonomy will help them effectively handle conflicts with minimal parental interference and teach them responsibility.

4. Encourage them to show empathy and kindness

Sibling relationships lead to the development of critical values such as empathy and kindness. Parents of only children can ensure they inculcate such values in their children by giving them opportunities to experience these emotions. Demonstrate these values in your day-to-day life, show your child real-life instances of empathetic and kind behaviors, and involve them in volunteer work or raise a pet with them and let them experience these emotions.

5. Avoid reinforcing perfectionism

Only children tend to be perfectionists (4). They might even expect others to follow the same standards. Avoid reinforcing this perfectionism. Try to avoid improving or reworking on every task they do and let them make mistakes and learn from them.

6. Let them establish their own identity

Parents have a considerable influence on an only child. As a result, the child may sometimes feel like they do not have their own identity and merely reflect their parent’s expectations and failures (2). Do not expect your child to fulfill the dreams you could not achieve. Instead, encourage them to explore their true interests and make their own decisions (3).

7. Do not overburden them

Do not set unrealistic expectations for them. This may put undue pressure on them, causing them to stress out. While many only children may be high flyers, parents should have realistic expectations. Only children often show maturity and behave like adults, but it is crucial to remember that they are still children. Let them enjoy their childhood.

8. Support them in their lows

Only children can get highly self-critical and hold themselves responsible for everything that goes wrong in their lives, such as a bad day at school or poor grades. While it is natural for you to feel displeasure, try not to pull them down. Instead, listen to the child in such a scenario and discourage any negative thoughts. Only children seek their parent’s approval, so offer them your support and encouragement.

9. Avoid overindulging your only child

Only children generally get everything they need and more from their parents. On the contrary, children with siblings may not have this luxury. They have to share their things and often wait for their needs to be met. Therefore, do not overindulge your only child (3). They need to know that you will not fulfill their every whim.

This can be achieved by following specific techniques. First, a limit can be set for the maximum number of gifts or things they could receive in a year. Next, teach them to earn the stuff they want by doing little chores around the house. The delayed gratification and efforts required will help them understand the value of things.

10. Avoid being the constant playmate for your only child

Only children often look for companionship and playmates at home. While you should interact and play with them, it will not be feasible to do this constantly — you have your chores and duties to attend to.

Plan your schedule to ensure that you devote some time to entertain your child, and let them know how long you can play with them. Then, for the remaining time, encourage the child to play on their own or help them make friends. This balanced approach will reduce parental dependence.

11. Establish clear boundaries

Single children remain close to their parents and may display adult behavior. For example, they might act bossy and expect to weigh in on every decision. If not stopped at the right time, they may start back-talking and expressing their opinions on issues concerning adults. It is critical to establish clear boundaries to avoid such scenarios.

The child should be taught what behavior is acceptable and what is not. While it is good to seek their input on some decisions, involve the child only in decisions about them or the household.

12. Encourage them to smile in difficult situations

Only children tend to be intelligent and high achievers striving to do their best. If they fail, they can become stressed and depressed. Teach your child not to get bogged down by difficult situations. Encourage them to face such situations with a smile and be friendly and open with your child. A light and happy home environment can also help them laugh more.

13. Treat your child like a child

The mini-adult-like behavior that they exhibit may make it easy for only children to be considered as adults. Avoid making this mistake. They should not be forced to grow up too soon. This does not mean you should treat them like babies — coddling them might impact their emotional growth. Instead, treat them as per their age (3).

Disadvantages Of Being An Only Child

Being an only child can often mean being the center of their parent’s world. This comes with its own set of issues. Here are a few disadvantages of being an only child.

1. Excessive parental focus: Only children depend entirely on their parents for support. They have limited experience interacting with children their age since most of the only child’s interactions involve adults. In the absence of siblings, they have no one to share their feelings except the adults. Thus, many only children tend to bottle up their emotions and deal with situations alone (2).

2. Parental pressure and influence: Parental influence is significant in only children. Many single children are unable to break free from their parent’s influence throughout their lifetime. They feel intense parental pressure and may have issues in establishing their own independent identity (2).

3. Lack of essential relationship skills: Siblings often have to share their parent’s attention. When the younger sibling is born, the older child has to handle the loss of attention, while the younger child has to deal with the stronger older sibling. Single children do not have to share their parents’ attention or deal with a sibling conflict. Thus, they may become self-centered, fail to recognize other people’s wants, or fail to empathize with others (2).

4. Problems with social interaction: Single children might find it challenging to handle conflicts while working in groups. Children with siblings learn to compromise, compete, and win and lose, thus gaining many social experiences while interacting with their siblings. Only children have to learn social interactions on the go without the guidance of their siblings, and hence, may make many mistakes (2).

5. Internalization of issues: Only children may hold themselves solely responsible for everything happening in their lives. They might internalize their problems and find it challenging to handle challenging situations. Taking the entire blame for all their failures can cause many only children to become depressed (2).

Using the right parenting techniques can help only children thrive. While siblings play a crucial role in enriching children’s social lives, providing your only child with opportunities to expand their friend circle can effectively build their social skills. Parental support and encouragement can motivate them to develop their own identity and become independent.


MomJunction’s health articles are written after analyzing various scientific reports and assertions from expert authors and institutions. Our references (citations) consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

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