My fiance and I are both only children.
When I tell others this, they usually respond by implying that we’re spoiled, selfish, or don’t know how to share. I can’t really blame people for believing that. I know plenty of only children that are one or all of those.
I am pleased to report that I am neither pampered nor self-centered. I’m an only child, so I probably got more attention from my parents than I would have liked….but that doesn’t mean I got everything I desired. Toys, birthday parties, and unrestricted access to the television were all part of my upbringing.
In fact, until I was in my early teens, I was completely unaware of the realities of my parents’ lives. My parents are both immigrants who worked extremely hard. While we weren’t poor or struggling to get by, we were lower to middle class. So yes, my parents didn’t have a lot to spoil me with even if they wanted to. But I think it comes down to more than that.
I’m not a parent so I can’t say this from the perspective of one – but I can speak from the perspective of an only child who was taught financial values. Only children or not, it’s important to give kids the basic fundamentals to personal finances.
So how do you raise an only child and show them love, without spoiling them? Here’s what I learned from my childhood:
Teach them the value of money
A dollar is a dollar – but what is it’s real value to you? As I mentioned, my parents immigrated to the US and had to start from scratch. I can make a dollar by writing a few words these days but for them, earning money took a lot more hard work. I think I started to realize this around the age of 10, when I joined my parents for a day at their job (they ran a restaurant). When I began to understand what it took to earn money, I felt less inclined to spend it.
When I have kids one day, I intend to have them work for their money – doing chores, getting good grades, and when they’re old enough, getting a part-time job.
Read also: 9 Simple Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money
Learn when to say no
When you’re a parent to an only child, it’s hard to know when to say no. Even my parents had that problem. I was a very disciplined little kid but I had my moments when I wanted this and that. My parents set limits. I would get presents on my birthday and holidays and a surprise every now and then. But I wasn’t been showered with gifts every time we went into a store. I think it’s important to set expectations for children – if you constantly buy things, kids will only become accustomed to it.
Money does not mean love
My parents worked a lot and often – which meant I was often home with just my grandmother. My parents didn’t have a lot of time to spend with me and I know that’s something they’ve always felt guilty about, especially since I’m an only child and didn’t have a sibling to grow up with. I think most working parents can relate to my mom and dad. But what some working parents do wrong is try to replace time with money.
Money doesn’t mean love so don’t try to buy your kids things just to make up for lost time. Some of my fondest memories I have with my parents are the breakfasts with my mom before school or the trips to the park with my dad before he went to work on the weekends – not the toys they bought me.
Occupy their time
Only children can have a lot of spare time on their hands – I know I did. One thing I wish my parents made me do more of was participate in extracurricular activities. I dabbled in instruments but never found anything I really liked. I never really got into sports either. Instead, I spent a lot of time watching TV…which also meant I was exposed to a lot of promotional marketing. I wish I had found an activity I enjoyed and spent more time doing it.
So to get to my point: yes, only children can be spoiled but so can any other child. I think it comes down to teaching kids financial responsibility. I think I have that pretty down pat so thank you mom and dad!
Are you an only child or raising an only child? What do you think about spoiling kids?