Siblings

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Through out my life, and especially in recent years, I have noticed that most people who grow up with siblings are more confident, willing to share, and less self-absorbed compared to people who do not have any siblings. I have made these observations from the perspective of having a younger sibling (by two years, my brother), and have noticed these trends in almost everyone I have met.

The biggest difference I have seen between people who grew up with siblings versus single children is the level of self-absorption. Single children are usually more self-absorbed, and the reason for this is that they were spoiled, in both toys and attention, by their parents because they have their parents’ sole attention. This is different for siblings because they learn early on in life that they aren’t the center of the world. Their parents have to split their attention, and toys, among their children. This shows the siblings that everyone is equally important because everyone receives the same amount of affection. On the other hand, only children are indirectly taught from an early age that they are the most important because their parents lavish them with gifts and attention. This leads to only children being self-absorbed, and spoiled because of what they feel is natural because of being treated that way since birth.

One example of this behavior happened at a birthday party I went to when I was six. One of the boys, an only child, started to cry and make a huge fuss because he couldn’t hit the piñata twice before everyone else had taken their turn.

Besides self-absorption, one major effect of growing up with a sibling is often overlooked: the ability to give and take criticism in a (usually) respectful way. Some parents will tell their children that they are wonderful and perfect, but it is often a sibling’s brutal honesty that points out flaws in each other. This teaches these children that criticism isn’t always a bad thing, and it teaches them how to give criticism in a constructive way for others. Only children often never hear criticism growing up, and so when they do start getting criticized they often take it badly, and believe that the person giving them the criticism is criticizing them solely for the sake of being mean.

A perfect example of siblings criticizing each other is my brother and I because we constantly pick each other’s ideas apart. I had made a sand castle once, and my brother immediately found all of the flaws in its design. This only serves to harden us to criticism outside the family.

One simple way to lessen these two effects of growing up as an only child is to encourage single children to spend time with friends outside of the house, without parental intervention. Also, parents may point out flaws in a child’s design, game, homework, etc. so the child can learn how to take criticism.

It is clear to me that there are distinct differences between people who grew up with siblings, and people who grew up as only children. One difference is that only children are more self-absorbed, and a second difference is that siblings are able to give, and take, criticism in a positive way. But, whether it is an only child encouraged to go out and play with the neighbors, or a parent pointing out flaws, it will only help everyone by making sure an only child has a chance to avoid the common pitfalls of being raised alone.





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