In most homes, an only child is regarded as a prince and heavily protected like a fragile item that should not be allowed to break. But by so doing, many parents have turned their precious children into lazy and unimaginative lots, which in turn make people, see them as spoilt and bratty. RALIAT Yusuf writes.
If you ask anyone whether they think that the only child is often spoilt, egocentric, bratty and thinks that the whole universe begins, ends and practically revolves around him or her self, the answer from most respondents wil probably be yes. This is irrespective of whether the respondent is from Ghana, Nigeria, UK , US, France, India , China or any country at all. The reason is because this perception is held all over the world - whether in the developing or developed world, the only child is believed to be all of the above description.
While this may be true in many cases, there are however exceptions. But is there really a grain of truth in the stereotype or is it just a myth?
The myth of the only child dates back to the late 18th century when a psychologist called Stanley Hall, known as the founder of child psychology, called being an only child “a disease in itself.”
Another social psychologist Susan Newman says the myth has been perpetuated ever since.
According to her, “people articulate that only children are spoiled, they’re aggressive, they’re bossy, they’re lonely, they’re maladjusted,” she said.
Some studies have shown that there is no difference with an only child when it comes to bossiness or acting spoiled, but it concludes that there is a significant difference when it comes to intelligence. A landmark 20-year study showed that increased one-on-one parenting produces higher education levels, higher test scores and higher levels of achievement.
This advantage could be as a result of the fact that they have all their parents’ financial resources to get them private teachers to give them extra lessons and so on. This means more reading time, more homework time and eventually better test scores.
But a parent Mr. Michael Ajayi disagrees with the above, arguing that “over-pampering a child because he or she is the only one affects their educational performance because parents would want to copy notes, do their assignments and do the thinking for them while other children are struggling to solve some educational problems all by themselves”.
In most cases, the parents of an only child often warn their teachers not to shout at or reprimand their child when they make a mistake,” he said.
In our society and Africa in general, it is unusual for an African family to deliberately plan to have just one child; it’s in fact an aberration, as a result, the only child is usually that of circumstance - circumstance of difficulty of the mother to conceive in time, or the others having died or have been still born.
Eventually when they are born, they are lavished with so much care and attention and made the centre of everything.
Consequently, such children get to the stage when they believe or take it for granted that everything begins and ends with them and no one else matters and they grow up with that as their perception of life and thus selfish or self - centered.
On the flip side of the argument are those who bring up their only child the proper way as regards the right societal values and making sure they receive the best of everything which now makes the only child to be well brought up morally and educationally, with all the attributes of growing up as advantaged rather than disadvantaged.
Mrs. Tope Afolayan, a teacher who has only one daughter, says that there are myths when it comes to the issue of an only child. For some it may be true and yet for others it may not, depending on how the parents bring their only child up.
Afolayan notes that parents who have only one child may unconsciously draw them into trouble that can haunt them for the rest of their lives, if care is not taken.
“The only child has been over pampered by parents in many homes and that tends to render the child almost useless because they have come to the obvious conclusion that they do not need to struggle for anything in order to make it in life.
“I don’t over pamper my daughter because she is the only one I have. When you over indulge a child because he or she is the only one, it develops into an ego problem – the child will always want to be special in every relationship, domineering and demanding,” she said.
“In terms of giving money, materials and the likes, the parents overdo, thereby forcing some of the children into obesity and other avoidable health conditions,” she adds.