Thursday, 22 June 2017

Personality Traits for an Only Child

Quick, write a list of all the character traits you'd associate with an only child!

Did you write spoiled, selfish, self-centred or bratty, or any synonyms thereof? Screw your list up and throw it in the bin. If you wrote lonely, set it on fire, first.

Let me first go through the issues with these first two ideas. Also, since we are not a monolithic group, these are based on my own experiences, and not hard and fast rules. Since I was used to amusing myself at an early age, I found I tended to get less lonely and bored than other children. I could happily play by myself, reading or playing video games, or playing pretend in the garden for hours. The other main one is that my parents did not spoil me. We were a middle-class family, but they certainly did not cater to my every whim and buy me everything I wanted. Mum said than when I had friends round and she put out snacks, because I wasn't used to fighting for things, they would be gone by the time I got to the table. And it was nice to share, since I never had anyone to share things with! And without siblings, I could never gang up on my parents to convince them that a trip to Lego Land/a trampoline was absolutely essential for our well-being!

1. Independence - this is an obvious one, when you think about it. Being more used to doing things alone means that we tended to be more independent. I was allowed to go on train journeys by myself earlier than my other friends, and now I find I much prefer holidaying by myself.
2. Maturity - since we become much more used to talking to adults at an early age, we can sometimes come across as more mature. I can distinctly recall family events where I was the only one present who was under 30!
3. Perfectionism - In some families, the desire to make your parents proud can be spread over a few people. One to be the perfect-grades-and-good-career one, and one to have grandchildren. In only children, all this is concentrated on one child, so the pressure can be increased. I've had bits of it since I'm my parents only chance at grandchildren, but I don't want to get married yet!
4. Can't get away with anything - bird knocks picture frame off our mantlepiece? My fault. Friends scribble on the walls? My fault. Things missing? My fault. Never being able to shift the blame to brothers or sisters meant I always got the blame, even for things I didn't do.
5. Liking solo activities - I remember how hard it was for me to get people to play board games with me! Since we have to amuse ourselves, you might find a more lasting interest in doing things we can do by ourselves, such as reading. And video games, even now, I prefer single-player games to multi-player. Also, you don't have to give a girl a brother to explain why she has a "boy" interest. Not that any interest should be categorised as for girls or boys, anyway.
6. Liking younger children - they were a novelty, so I was never as annoyed by my friends brothers and sisters as they were. And this has carried through into adulthood! Not having to listen to screaming young babies in my formative years means I seem to prefer them still, even now.
7. Introversion - okay, I won't say this is always an only child trait, but it's one I definitely picked up. Only children can genuinely prefer to spend time alone and require more peace and space than other children.
8. Close to parents - I wouldn't necessarily say I'm closer to them than children with siblings, but as I used to do a lot of things with Mum, like nipping to the shops, having a coffee or going to garden centres, we get on quite well know.

What about negative traits? I won't deny that there are some, and I also won't refute that some only children can be spoilt. However, some children with siblings can be spoilt, too. It's not a unique thing, and definitely isn't caused solely by being an only child!
1. Overly sensitive - never having built up a thick skin to siblings teasing means we can struggle more with bullies and their comments.
2. Trouble relating to peers - tying into maturity above, we may find it harder to socialise with people our own age.

Assorted oddities:
I never liked the front seat of the car. The back seat was comfier, and I could spread my legs out over it. I never had to fight with people for it, so I didn't want it because I couldn't have it. Since Mum liked me in the front seat so she could converse with me better, it just made me want the back seat more.
We never had much that I might need a second person to use - it took ages to convince my parents to get me a games console, since "you need a second person to play it with!"
I think I did more after-school activities than my friends, perhaps for the sheer fact that my parents wanted to provide me with something to do. Of course, this plays into the whole increased pressure thing listed above!

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