The Trials and Tribulations of Bringing Up an Only Child

father and daughter

I didn’t have this issue growing up as growing up in a family of four siblings there was always one to play with or terrorize, so to speak. We always found things to do even at a young age without running to our parents telling them we were bored and there was nothing to do. I can’t say honestly that it didn’t happen, it just didn’t happen as often as what I see it today with our daughter as well as those around us.

I want to first tell you that yes our daughter is spoiled, however, she is not a spoiled brat.
These are two different things in my mind as we spend money on her that most parents probably would not with their child but we don’t let her get away with being anything but friendly and as easy to get along with as we are.
The reason and point to this article is to tell you how we have managed to keep our daughter on the straight and narrow without any difficulty from a very young age.

I truly feel that we mold our children into not who they will be, but whom they have the chance to be in the future and no I don’t profess that my way is “The way”, it’s just what worked for us and as far as anyone concerned that meets her, she is very easy to get along with.

When she was first born, as some children do, she was very sleepless. We would at the most get between 2 – 4 hours of sleep, I say we as I would never allow my wife to do more than half of the engagements as that is what bringing up a child is all about, and I’m so glad at the time I was able to put the time in. We went the first three months through this sleepless time until I came upon a lady whom her daughter had been going through the same thing with their son. It sounded completely strange at first and we thought, how can this work for a child this young and we had doubts but it was the best $36 we ever spent.
It was a program Called Sleep Sense by Dana Obleman. Long story short it’s about taking props away from children that they use against you as a sleeping aid and training their mind to be able to put themselves asleep without them.

You may ask why I’ve gone back as far as this, and the way I see it is this was the turning point for us to be able to start the teaching process early. I know that it is said that you shouldn’t believe everything you read and people have issues with this process, but let me tell you that when it comes down to getting no sleep for 3 months and you wake up thinking you have your child in your arms when you don’t, it was time to do something.
That being said our daughter from that point on slept from 6:30 pm until 8:30 am and guess what….unless it’s a school day, she still does.

Fast forwarding through what are called the terrible two’s and the troublesome three’s and so forth, whenever we had an issue that warranted discipline, she was placed in the corner for a timeout on her knees and was told that the longer she cried and didn’t apologize for what was done, the longer the punishment would be.
At an early age of course, you don’t let them stay in the corner any more than a few minutes, just long enough for them to get the point.
As parents, we were both spanked growing up and I personally don’t disagree with it as I feel that it is not abuse if it’s handled properly, but we chose to go with the timeout method instead and it has worked for us.

Our daughter being seven years old now and an only child finds herself telling us she is bored and has nothing to do, I can assure you that this isn’t the case with wall to wall toys, gaming systems, etc. she has more than enough to keep herself busy.
So how do we get around the, “I’m bored” phase you may ask?
Thinking back to what your parents did when we didn’t have access to the toys that she would have today… I give her three choices: 1)Pick some toys to play with 2)Go outside and play and get some air and always an educational one 3)Read a book or practice her numbers, do some artwork..
I have found it very important to add in the educational option as a lot of times she will pick that one.

The way I see it is that our children are not bored, and we know it, so what is the issue?
The issue is that it all comes down to sometimes just needing guidance as their minds are sometimes confused as to what it is that they want to do and just need that little nudge to decide that they want to go forward.
I’ve seen firsthand what happens if you leave it alone and don’t make the suggestion as frustration kicks in and then you have a harder day than you both want.
Eventually, of course your child will grow into the idea of making these decisions by themselves using the same logic as you used with them, but as mentioned for now they just need that little nudge for help.

Comments (10)

  • I have one fear of only having one. Heaven forbid if something were to ever happen to them. My life would be over. I work in mental health and have seen the effects it has on people when they lose their only children (or any child at that).
    I also think about my son and how when my husband and I pass he will have no one to lean on. Yes, he may have a family of his own by then but it is different when you have a sibling to rely on during those times.

    Elica Palacek
  • I want to add as well. A year ago I was asked by this very nice older (meaning most likely in his 80’s) gentleman if my son was my only. I said yes. He then went to tell me that if he could go back he would have more children. He always thought when he was younger that one was enough but now he realizes it was not. He had regrets of not having more.
    He stated he felt bad for his son of not giving him siblings.
    We are all different and we all want our own things for our paths. You chose what you think is best for you.

    Elica Palacek
  • Elica, just to clear a little up for you. Originally, the only child option had made us feel complete and I had the procedure done. Before the 3 year point of no return, we both decided we would like another. I was told after I had my reversal that I was in the higher percentile and that all would be fine. Unfortunately, it’s pushing the two year mark and now they say it’s slim to no chance. Easy to say after spending a huge chunk of money for the reversal. Yes we do have options but of course we want to make sure we absolutely cannot have one on our own before we decide what we will do.

  • Matthew,
    You do not have to explain anything to me nor anyone for your personal choices. What choices you make you know is best for you. There was no judging here.
    Your post hit home a little too much for me as I lost a baby last year to Trisomy 18 and my husband is deathly afraid it will happen again and is fine with one.
    I on the other hand am not for the reasons stated above. Please do not feel like I was questioning you.

    Elica Palacek
  • I understand an didn’t take anything the wrong way or anything. I figured I would explain where it was we were at in case someone else could be going through the same thing. I appreciate the interaction though as this is what makes for a good article.

  • Great article as usual Matthew! Even having two children, my kids are always bored! When the ask for me to play with them for the umpteenth time in a day after hours of playtime as a family, I tend to fall back on my go-to line which is “I gave birth to one more of you so you would have constant entertainment. Go find that sibling!” The reality is we live in a world where we are constantly “on” and are kids are that way as well. The notion of using their imagination and finding something to do on their own or quiet time to draw, do arts and craft etc… just does not get enforced enough. So, with one child or many, its about teaching them to be okay with downtime and using their imagination and not always relying on someone else for their entertainment.

    Sharon Vinderine
  • Hi Matthew! Great post! I grew up the eldest of three children, and I always thought I’d have a big family. Right now, we only have one child. She’s 5 years old. There are days I think I NEED to have a sibling for her, and then I realize our family is complete with just the three of us. There isn’t anything wrong about only having one. I find we can give her everything she needs – the attention, the time, the activities, etc. She asks for a baby sister or brother, but she is also around lots of kids regularly. It’s like she has dozens of siblings. 🙂 If we do have another baby, then that’s just the icing on the cake 🙂

    Like I said, we only have one child and she is never bored. We live on a farm and we have lots of animals. The word “bored” irritates me. No child should ever be “bored”. Go outside! PLAY!!!! Be active! Be a kid! We have friends who give their kids lots of screen time and TV time. We only give LO 30 mins of that. Other than that, we are outside. I can work from my patio with my laptop and we hang out. She plays on the trampoline or with the animals. She collects items from outdoors so we can do nature crafts, and goes on adventures like the Kratts Brothers from Wild Kratts. Though I do spend a lot of time with her and play with her, she doesn’t rely on me to find her own entertainment. This is a very good thing! Plus, having kids in the neighbourhood help! 🙂

  • I’m at the point of we have two…but do we have a third? Definitely not right now. I loved having my brother around growing up, even though he was 4 years younger. Part of me wants to have 3 kids just in case something happens to their relationships as they grow! I’ve had a rocky relationship with my only sibling this last year…and I feel like I have no family at times!

    We sleep trained our kids at 4-5 months with a very similar sounding method and it’s the best parenting decision we’ve ever made!

  • Our little guy is an only child and from the way things are looking he’ll always be an only child. We too have the problem of being bored when there’s umpteen different toys and activities to do. I feel bad quite often thinking about how he probably just wants someone to play with. Adults have things that need to be done and we can’t always sit and play which is hard for them to understand but suggesting things/giving guidance does help.

  • Great article! I am raising one little girl. Life has come to us so fast that we are so not bored. But I can imagine how some children can be bored.

    Sandra Martinez

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