What should I do?

by on December 10, 2012

in Bernice responds,Parent of an only-child

I am a single parent to a wonderful ‘only’ boy. He is 5 years old and I naturally think he is a genius, as most mothers do. I have read some of your posts, I appreciate the varied topics and I plan on reading more.

My son and I recently moved across country for a new job and I do not have a large network of friends, especially those with children his age. He has been in daycare since the age of 10 months old and has always been around other children at daycare and now school. His Kindergarten teacher recently stated: “He needs to listen to his friends before he goes ahead with his own agenda. His actions can sometimes be viewed as disrespectful by his peers.”

This has me a little concerned. He is not a mean child, nor is he aggressive, however, this leads me to believe that he is not respecting the other kids opinions. I’m certain it’s likely when they want to do something that he does not. I am noticing he has difficulties connecting with children his own age and most often wants to hang out with kids a few years older (e.g.7 – 9yrs old). I am not overly concerned now, however, I worry that as he gets older, if this trend continues, he might be exposed to things at a much younger age than I would prefer.

I would really appreciate any suggestions for reading material that discusses single parenting of an only child.

Bernice replies:

I  suspect it is not so much he is disrespecting other children’ opinions rather he is not used to needing to ‘share’ the decision making. I believe this is not at all untypical of only children because we do not have the opportunities to share decision-making as we grow up in the same way we would if we had siblings. Either our parent’s make the decision for us or we are given the opportunity by a parent to make the decision, thus the ‘negotiating’ bit is missing.

I note your son mixes with older children that is often the case with onlies because an age gap (ie parents being the next in age) is more familiar. I also suspect older children are possibly more likely to be tolerant of his behaviour if they do not feel threatened by your son’s possible forthrightness.

However I really would not worry too much. Children have a way of adapting and if he was not an only, he may well have chosen older friends if he had had older siblings. I think, as a parent of an only, we can worry too much about these things and perhaps make too much of what may appear as criticism of our child. The best thing to do with your son is to make more decisions together so he learns the skills of negotiation. I would recommend Carl Pickhardt’s book even though it is not specifically for single parent’s:

Pickhardt, Carl. (1997) Keys to Parenting the Only Child. Barron’s Parenting keys: New York.


  • Tasha

    Hi Bernice, thank you for responding to my inquiry. I truly appreciate your insight.

    I find it interesting that you mentioned that the older children are likely more tolerant of his behaviour. This is exactly what his teacher told me recently. At the time I didn’t quite understand what she meant but I think I am starting to get a better sense of it. The younger children will call him out on things that they deem unfair or unkind, whereas, the older children are more accepting of his behaviour because they still consider him young and maybe he doesn’t know any better. Am I correct?

    You are also right in the sense that I am very protective of my son and take it to heart when I hear what I think is a criticism. I hope that over the years I will gain a tougher skin for the teacher’s feedback. I do like the idea of working at negotiating with him. I have to admit that I am often the dictator in the household and I certainly will try to figure out a way to do that from now on.

    Anyways, thank you again for the response and I will look into your suggested reading.

  • bernice

    Thanks Tasha,
    Sorry I took awhile to reply! I’m glad you found my thoughts useful- and yes i think older children are more accepting and of course he will benefit from having older peers to learn from! Bernicexx

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