Only-Child Conundrum

19 Dec

Dear LetterBalm: I’m sick of only children being thought of as demanding, self-centered or entitled. My husband and I are the parents of an only child by choice, and we must deal with occasional mindless (and deliberate) putdowns of our nine-year-old daughter – things like “she certainly shares well for an only child” or “you’re lucky your daughter doesn’t demand all your time.” Well, she’s a kind and caring girl, who, if anything, goes out of her way to include all her friends in everything. Yes, she spends a lot of time around adults, but this has made her respectful and not interrupt and act like a brat. I am particularly incensed at my sister, who has three of her own and persists in saying my kid is going to have a hard time when she figures out the world doesn’t revolve around her. She already knows that, thank you very much. My husband and I need to say something to my sister (and a couple of well-meaning friends), but we don’t want to cause friction.


Ms. L.B. has two good friends and a dear younger friend who are only children. So, she knows there is no difference between only kids and those with siblings. (And, research studies back this up.) There is a difference, however, between dealing with your sister’s mean-spirited criticisms and those of friends or acquaintances who offer backhanded compliments out of ignorance. Use some of what you’ve said to defuse your sister and educate your friends. In all cases, be kindly and be sure no kids are around:

Judith, just a few quick words about Beatrice. Tom and I have noticed that you single her out for being an only child. But this makes her pretty resilient and, believe it or not, conscious of including everyone in games and play. You’ve even remarked about this. I’m sure you’ve noticed, too, that Beatrice is respectful and doesn’t interrupt – that’s because she’s around adults a lot. Studies have shown that there’s no difference between only children and those with siblings. If anything, only kids can develop an earlier understanding of how the world works because they have to forge their own way and figure out a lot of things for themselves. So, can we agree to let Beatrice have the benefit of the doubt and go her own way?


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