Hot on the heels of our last episode on whether only children really are as bad as their reputation, this week’s episode is for the 80% of families (in the U.S., at least) who have more than one child.
How do siblings impact each other’s development? What should we make of the research on how birth order impacts each child? Why the heck do siblings fight so much, and what can we do about it? (Turns out that siblings in non-Western countries actually don’t fight anywhere near as much…)
We cover all this and more with my guest, Professor Susan McHale of Penn State University.
Today’s episode comes to us as a result of a listener named Sylvia who wrote to me saying she and her partner don’t want another child but are worried about the potential impact on their daughter of growing up without siblings. But why would there be a potential impact?
Turns out there’s a slew of information in the popular press about how only children grow up with no way to learn social skills, which makes them simply awful to be around. And everybody agrees – from parents of multiples and children who grew up with siblings, to parents of only children and even only children themselves – that only children are more selfish and not as nice to spend time with as children who grew up with siblings.
No wonder Sylvia is worried!
Personally I don’t have this problem; my own selfishness about not wanting a second child has overridden the issue of growing up without siblings to the extent that I had actually never considered it a potential problem until I received the question. But having pondered it and found that there is some research on it, I decided the time was ripe to find out whether only children really are as awful as popular wisdom says they are and, if so, what I could do about it before it’s too late!
It’s no secret that I do some episodes of the podcast altruistically for you, dear listeners, because I’m not facing the situation that I’m studying – or at least not yet. (Eyebrows were raised in our house when I started researching the impact of divorce on children but luckily for me I don’t need that episode…yet…)
But today’s episode is for me, and you guys are just along for the ride. Because, friends, we are in the thick of what I now know to be called “oppositional defiance,” otherwise known as “Noooo! I don’t wanna [insert activity here]”. We’ll discuss why toddlers are defiant, and lots of strategies we can use to deal with that defiance and even head it off at the pass. If your child has ever said “No!” to something you want them to do, this episode is for you!
We’re concluding our mini-mini series today on chores – and on paying children to do chores, which leads us to larger conversations about money. If you missed the first part of this then then you might want to go and listen to last week’s interview with Dr. Andrew Coppens, who explores the ways that families in different cultures approach chores and what lessons that can hold for those of us who want to encourage our children to do their chores.
Today we’re going to take that conversation to its logical conclusion by talking about money, and what better guest to do that with us than Ron Lieber,who wrote the book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids who are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money. It’s a really practical guide to talking with your children about money – from what information they should have at what age, to what to do with a child who always wants you to buy them something at the store, to what to say when a child wonders why homeless people don’t have enough money.
This episode is on a topic that I find fascinating – the cultural issues that underlie our parenting. I actually think this issue is so important that I covered it in episode 1 of the podcast, which was really the first episode after the introductory one where I gave some information on what the show was going to be about.
But recently I read a book called Generation Me by Jean Twenge, a Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University, which discusses some of the cultural contexts that have led to the generation of people born since 1970 to develop a certain set of characteristics that sometimes seem very strange to those who were born before us, and may be leading us to raise children who are just a bit too individualistic.
In this episode I discuss some of those characteristics and what implications they have for the way we parent our own children, and offer some thoughts on how we can shift that our approach if we decide we want to.