My mother, she who knows all, recommended (Or should I say pushed and prodded and nagged…no, that would revert us all back to our child hoods) that I read a book on raising “only” children. The conversation went something like this: “You’ve certainly read enough parenting books, and taken enough courses on the subject, but dont’cha think that since you’ve only got one you may want to target your audience?”
So I went online, my second mother that knows all. I quickly found a website called onlychild.com. and signed up for their quarterly newsletter. It promised articles ranging from narratives from celebrity onlies, childcare, to onlies dealing with the death of their parents.
In looking for a book I searched out different options settling on the book with the most positive reviews. That book was “Parenting an Only Child” by Susan Newman, Ph.D. Dr. Newman teaches at Rutgers University in New Jersey and is the author of eleven books. You may have heard of her books through the media as she’s been featured in press, television and videos. Her website, www.susannewmanphd.com. , proved very helpful and when I clicked on contacting her and she responded very quickly!
But my new book proved more difficult to finish than I had imagined! And not for lack of interest, more like due to lack of keeping my little treasure to myself. It turned out that at least three of my co-workers, of onlies, wanted to read my book! And even the Eve of Destruction is known to, very rarely mind you, be generous with her possessions. So my half-read book changed hands a few times before I got to finish it. My Only Child newsletter did the same. Was I on to something?
Okay, enough of that teaser, here, practically verbatim, is what I learnt. (After every one else in my office it would seem.) And surprisingly, applies to parenting more than one child as well:
· If you are even thinking about having only one child, and haven’t made your decision yet, you MUST read this book. It will remove any guilt and pressure.
· A problem with an only child may not stem from his being an only. Investigate, find out what children the same age are having difficulties with, ask the teacher and other parents and if problem is still upsetting you, consult a professional.
· Don’t scrutinize. Try to think and act as if you had many children. Because if you had, say three, you would not have the time to think about which one was doing what and you’d be please that they were all safely occupied and happy.
· Attempting to shield your only child is perhaps the easiest trap into which you can fall. As soon as you start interfering, tears will flow and dependence will begin to blossom.
· Take a few deep breaths before you react to a problem as nervous attitudes are hard to conceal and sooner or later are absorbed by children.
· Don’t focus on oneness. (This was Dr Newman’s answer to my e-mail query, “Should I start an only child play group?”)
· Involve your child as much as possible in activities that do not center on him, such as team sports, summer trips or camp programs.
· Only children must learn that they may be the only child in a household but they are not the only person. (Samantha learned this by playing games with us. Eventually she learned not to expect to start, win or change the rules.)
· Playdates, playdates, playdates! The more your child shares his toys, his meals, and even his bedtime rituals at sleepovers the more she will learn how to get along with others. Onlies have to search these out daily as they don’t have the built-in play available with a sibling. In effect, create sibling relationships so he gets noncontrolling behavior modeling from other sources.
· Make your only wait his turn, say “excuse me” or use hand signals to set boundaries.
· Discipline shows you care. By overlooking your singleton’s minor indiscretions you may actually contribute to the very problems you are trying to avoid.
· Very simply, don’t do for your child what he can do for himself.
· Don’t weaken once you’ve taken a stand.
· Advance reminders help an only child to your going out without him. Rebellion against your going out is one of the most obvious indications that your child is seeking control.
· Have regular family meetings (not lecture time) when your only child can have a say but limit it to age-appropriate areas. At no age should your child determine where you will go for dinner or vacation, but he can be involved in the decision making.
· A unified front is essential. If you hear, “But Mommy said” remember it can undermine your relationships with both your spouse and your child.
· A warning sign that you may have too much pressure on your only to achieve is if he says or feels he’s lazy or dumb, stops trying or drops a extracurricular lesson or sport.
· We all have to face our childhoods when we face our children. Parents tend to want their children to have the successes that eluded them in childhood. When you don’t explicitly give a child room to be himself the situation can appear hopeless.
· Harping on perceived faults can be corrosive, remember there is no peer in the house for the child to turn to for corroboration that her parents are being over critical.
· Babying the baby does not encourage separation.
· Be cautious if you notice your child competing on your level.
· Let him engage in children’s pursuits, not sedentary grown-up projects.
· Be involved with other parents. Your contact helps your child feel part of a larger, more encompassing unit than the small one at home.
· Don’t be intrusive robbing an only child of his private self.
· Avoid fighting your child’s battles and being overprotective.
· Be sure there are sibling substitutes and one or several other adults with whom your child relates well. The child needs a safety valve, other than one of his parents, to release emotions openly without fear of being criticized or judged.
· A child without siblings will view his singleness as a problem only if you see it that way.
So that about sums up my favorite parts but not the entire value of the book. So either try and get your hands on my highlighted well worn coy if you dare or spend the $13 for your own. I guarantee it’s cheaper than counseling! And one last thing, thank you Dr. Newman for the best parenting book I’ve ever read!