Are Only Children Really Spoilt Little Emperors?

Are only children really spoilt and don’t know how to share? It’s definitely something I believed before I had a child.  So and so doesn’t know how to share because he is an ‘only child’.  Thingy pop throws a shit fit every five minutes because she is used to getting her own way all the time.

There is even an official phrase that has been hijacked by the Western media, to confirm that our only children are extra specially unpleasant. It’s called Little Emperor Syndrome. It derives from China’s one-child-per-family-policy, where it’s felt that the one and only child receives excessive amounts of attention from the parents, grandparents and extended family.

It’s probably true isn’t it? If the decision was made for you, that you could definitely only have the one child, wouldn’t you go above an beyond? Wouldn’t you savour every moment, just that little bit more? Knowing every occasion, every milestone was the first but also certainly the last.

In our society of course, the number of children we have is not dictated to us. By law you can have none or one or seven if you’re mad enough. The ‘only’ limits to our procreational ambitions are medical and financial. We simply grow up knowing that we can have that 2.4 family when we’re ready, when the time is right.

Except many of us do genuinely only want that one child or are only able to have the one. So why do we feel so negatively towards the concept of the only child?

It is still, even these days in this economical climate with its gaping gender pay gap and craptastic child care ‘solutions‘, a strange thing to have just one child.   “Just the one then? I’ve bemoaned this before and I repeat, mind your own bloody business. You never know what might be going on behind the scenes, what reasons and motivations people have.

I always thought that only children were spoiled in a monetary sense. Because they didn’t have any siblings, they just got given loads of crap – whenever they wanted it because their parents had the extra cash that didn’t have spread across several children. My son certainly owns a lot of crap but most of it wasn’t given to him by us and what was, is more often than not second hand.

He is not selfish, something that I have always heard about only children. And he is certainly not lacking in social skills, his ability to make and maintain friendships astounds me. As a socially awkward person, who can find it hard to strike up conversations with people I don’t know, I am often in awe of his forwardness with children he has just met. He actively seeks out companionship and has a circle of friends at his Pre-school in which he is very popular.

As a parent of an only child, through choice or otherwise – I’m slightly inclined to say that sometimes in fact, they are spoilt. They do after all, have the advantage of undivided attention and time. They do not have to compete with a sibling every minute of everyday.

But this doesn’t mean they can’t fall into line and negotiate with other children. Our son will share and sometimes he wont, but no more or less than your average three year old.  He’ll also often concede to a child that is much younger than him, knowing that is the kind thing to do.

I have every intention to raise him to be a half decent human being. You know, just an all round nice guy. Being an only child doesn’t change that, he is entitled to extra privileges. If anything I suspect it makes us harder on him. We are harder to impress upon him the values of kindness and tolerance, even though it generally comes naturally him.

So yes, maybe only children are a bit spoilt because they get more attention. But if you have the right idea as a parent, the right idea being  not-to-raise-a-precocious-little-shit  then it wont really be here nor there. Fingers crossed they should grow up to be nice, normal human beings.

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  1. great article. My son is an only child and he has never had any issues sharing or fitting in with other kids. He is very sociable (that may be due to being an only child – he has to make the first moves if he wants to play with other kids in the park, etc). He is strong-minded but I think that’s because of Being My Son Syndrome rather than Only Child Syndrome. I don’t see it as an issue. I worry that he is lonely or would like to have siblings but can’t change that. He is happy, emphatic and caring and certainly not a spoiled brat.

    1. empathetic!

  2. We’ve an only child too, and N is the same. Socially people want to be with him, once he’s got over his shyness, he’ll make close friends (mostly one on one or in small groups like at tennis, across different age groups), and while he does get things he wants, they’re usually for birthday/christmas or he earns them through rewards. He’s good at sharing, and in fact I used to worry that he’d not stand up for himself and be assertive when handing everything over to others when he obviously didn’t want to. He’s empathetic, and pretty much every adult says he’s a lovely little boy. But then he has 6 cousins within 2 miles, aunts, uncles and grandparents he sees most days, and not one of them (even granny and uncle H who give him too many sweets) would let him get away with ‘only child’ behaviour.

  3. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with your last line – whether we have 1, 2 or ten kids, let’s just all aim “not-to-raise-a-precocious-little-shit” LOL #StayClassyMama

  4. My hubby always jokes that I’m a bit of a princess because I’m an only child (which normally sparks a proper princess fit he he) but now we are pregnant with a little princess of our own, and only planning to have one, he will have to change his tune…he’s already buying everything he can for his little princess! pa ha ha #stayclassymama

  5. My Hubby has a little sister who is 9 years younger than him so he was pretty much raised as a single child and he is the most laid back chilled person – he definately isnt spoilt! #stayclassymama

  6. I have only one and I love to spoil him! Sometimes, they deserve it, you know? But some parents just don’t care and allow their child to be an asshole. It’s all about teaching them good values while they’re young. Making sure they are grateful to be spoiled.
    Great post. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Only children do get a bad rap. My stepson was an only child for 17 years until my twins were born and I don’t consider him to be spoiled. I *do* however think that there is an added responsibility for parents to make sure that an only child gets around other kids regularly. Just helps the kid to learn to share, cope socially, handle conflict, all that good stuff! #StayClassyMama

  8. I’ve met spoilt brats with siblings and I’ve met gorgeous kids without siblings! I really think it’s a matter of how you’re raised, not whether you have brothers or sisters. #stayclassy

  9. I agree with you. our five year old has a 17 year old sister, so she’s not really an only child, but she definitely gets more than her share of attention and so far seems to be a pleasant little girl. I think its just as easy to raise several little brats than just one. Sibling number isn’t part if the equation, I don’t think #stayclassy

  10. I was desperate to not have just one coming from being just one myself. I wasn’t spoilt, or bored but my best friend was one if 3 siblings and I loved her house, always something going on, hustle and bustle! Whilst I totally see some onlys who are treated as little emperors, I enjoyed being left to my own devices, (a world and childhood free from electrical devices back then!) reading, playing in the garden, dancing, making up games with teds. Looking back I appreciate that those times of just me have allowed me to feel comfortable with who I am. Happy to socialise but equally happy to be on my own. I’m still never bored to this day!

  11. I’m an only child and I don’t think I was at all spoiled in the monetary sense. As refugees who had to leave their lives behind, my parents couldn’t afford a lot of stuff during most of my childhood. I think that being an only child made me closer to my parents. They were the only ones who were always there and I did have all their attention. At the same time, being an only child made me more independent. I find that people with siblings have a harder time doing things on their own. Ultimately, I think it depends on the parents. #StayClassyMama

  12. We’re still unsure if we will have anymore children. I like the idea of having just one. I I want to be able to give him all the things I didn’t have the opportunity to do but at the same time I want him to appreciate that to get nice things you have to work hard. #stayclassymama

  13. Plenty of kids are spoilt little shits. Regardless of siblings. I think people notice it if it’s an only child and make that the cause. If it was a twin, they’d just think they were spoilt, not spoiled because they’re a twin. #Stayclassymama

  14. I don’t agree with the stereotype. I’ve witnessed it go both ways and think it’s more of a parenting issue than anything else. If you let your kid be a dick, your kid will be a dick, regardless. My son and daughter are so spaced out in age, so in a lot of ways both were only children. My son is still they baby at home and he’s amazingly well rounded. (I’m honestly pretty sure there may have been a hospital mix up. He’s too perfect to be mine. LOL)

    Either way, high five on our parenting skills I say!

  15. Children are what you make them! Sounds like you’ve got a fab little boy growing up perfectly well there!
    Excellent excuse for a glass of wine I would say! #stayclassymama

  16. I think all kids act that way at times…Only children or children with siblings.

  17. I’m an only child and both my parents are only children too. I like to think I’m not spoilt. I guess there are advantages and disadvantages to being an only child, plus I don’t know any different! Really interesting post. Chances are my son will remain an only child, and I’ll do my utmost to ensure he’s a grounded, well rounded individual who is lucky to have lots of love around him. #stayclassymama

  18. I know people with only one child and they are so lovely! I think it comes down to the effort you put in rather than them being only children.


  19. Sarah - mud cakes and wine says:

    Great read and its down to parenting I am sure. So a family with 5 children could have five that are selfish and spoilt. We have three and people raise their eyebrows at me over the number of children we have. #StayClassyMama

  20. I totally agree with your points here. It really annoys me when you see people getting asked when they are going to have another one, like it is a an actual requirement! It is so rude because like you say a) it is nothing to do with that person b) who knows what is going on behind the scenes c) and it is completely fine to have one child. My cousin is an only child and she is the most amazing, kind, confident and intelligent person I know! #StayClassyMama

  21. This is so true, I LOVE this post! We had only planned on having Amelia (I was told basically “fat chance” of anymore by docs!!) and when I fell pregnant with Wills literally everyone (including Mr C) was like “Oh goodness, how will Amelia cope? She’s been so used to having you all to herself all this time, and you’re just not going to have that time for her anymore and be careful because she might be mean to him you know…” When people came round to see the new baby, they all brought her a present too (because we don’t her to feel left out) to the point that when the door bell rang she started asking me “What have they brought me, mummy?” That’s how you create a spoiled child, so I kindly asked people – “No more presents please!”
    Well actually people! I believe that I am raising a kind, compassionate, confident child, and as it happens, she hasn’t lost out, she’s been lovely to her brother (mostly!), and she still gets plenty of time with us!
    Fantastic post (sorry for the essay, you got my juices going haha!) x

  22. Nope- ALL children are. I have four girls and they act the same way.


  23. Great sentiment here. Your kids are a product of your home/circumstances. Some homes can and do spoil kids. It happens. Some don’t. You can try as hard as you like but I think sometimes that “only child” syndrome pops up whether we promote it or not. And it isn’t always just in an only child. I say as long as you do your best, you’re likely to raise a human who’s a decent member of society. I loved this post. 🙂

  24. Thomas was an only child for five years before Henry came along (these are my feral little beasts just to point out who the hell they are) and thomas was much happier to share with his peers and generally play nice before Henry came in and pissed all over his parade. I think only children are often more secure knowing that they are the center of their parents world and that can be an advantage in a lot of ways similar to babywearing and breastfeeding, ‘spoiling them’ in an emotional way will just lead to a happier more confident little one as they know that they have a safe place to revert to if they start to feel threatened. #stayclassymama

  25. My niece is an only child and I can honestly say she is one of the most loving and giving kids ever. Yes, she has more opportunities than my boys because there is more time and money to go round (kids aren’t cheap, hey?) but she’s a delight. She’s confident and sociable. It’s how you raise them, isn’t it? I always wanted two kids but that’s just my choice. There is always pros and cons to the number of kids you have


  26. As an only child myself, I have to say that I was spoiled and I was kind of brat in high school (who wasn’t?), but I think that would have happened with or without siblings. In some ways, I think we can be more social because we have to go outside of our inner family circle more for companionship, especially when we’re younger. #stayclassymama

  27. I was only thinking this the other day.I think it can be the same even with more than one.I find I have a natural inclination to give mine all they want ,chocolate,toys,leaving an unaccountable trail of destruction behind them,but am careful to watch myself as being the centre of the universe and overweight does not work well in adult life.I do find it hard though!Your little boy looks a smasher!#StayClassyMama

  28. Mine is spoiled and I know but she is not selfish. I mean she wants to share her dummy with just about everyone (obviously not gonna happen) and she always shares her toys in nursery. I think she does a bit of selfish behaviour in her but I am not concerned

  29. Totally agree with you. I have an only child, she’s 6 and very socialable like your boy. She’s also really caring and kind, and not at all selfish. I think like every aspect of parenting, whether you have 1 or 7 kids, it’s all down to the values you teach them. Yes my daughter has our undivived attention at home, but she also knows to share, to think of others, and that she can’t have everything she wants!

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