Is a sibling the greatest gift you can give your first child?

On Friday’s programme Lydia in Canada argued passionately that the answer to this question is yes. Robert in Washington, who has one childm strongly disagreed. I said I’d put a post up about this, and here it is. And Lydia’s just sent me a column she wrote a few years ago about this. If you’d like to see it, read on…

One child only, J.Lo? How selfish!
By Lydia Lovric

Jennifer Lopez may appear to have it all, but the curvy singer/dancer/act-ress/perpetual bride admits that something is missing.

She wants to be a mother.

Unfortunately, J.Lo also admits that she would be happy with just one child.

“One healthy baby would be enough for me,” the Latin beauty recently confessed to People magazine.

Forgive me while I hop back onto my soap box, but it’s hard to ignore such a blatantly selfish statement.
Kids are not accessories. Having a baby shouldn’t be like toting around the latest Gucci handbag. It’s all fine and good that Ms. Lopez would be perfectly content to have just one baby, but is that really in the best interests of the child?

Let me be perfectly blunt. Parents who are physically able to have more than one child and have the financial means to support more than one child are nothing short of selfish if they decide to stop after Baby No. 1.

What about the child’s right to have a sibling? To experience the unique bond associated with having a brother or sister, especially after mom and dad pass away?

What about society’s right to have as few only children as possible, because we know how socially awkward only children can be.

Of all my friends and acquaintances who fit into the “only child” category, only one can be called “normal.” I say this for two reasons. One, it’s the truth. Two, these friends and acquaintances will each assume that he or she is the normal one and hopefully not give me too hard a time about this article.

But the average bloke knows exactly what I’m talking about. Only children are often considered to be spoiled brats who don’t know how to get along with others.

Science, incidentally, backs me up on this (although I don’t need a study to prove the obvious).

A U.S. study of more than 20,000 youngsters (a sizable group, to say the least) found that only children are less able to form and maintain friendships compared with kids who have siblings. Only children are also less equipped to comfort and help other kids and less sensitive to other people’s feelings.
The findings, released last year, were actually based on student evaluations made by teachers (who better than a teacher to gauge how students behave and interact with others on a day-to-day basis?).

True, having a sibling is not without its share of troubles. But siblings who fight also learn to resolve their differences, which is why they are better able to get along with people in general. Siblings learn to share and be respectful of others at a very early age. They also realize that they are not the centre of the universe, unlike many only children.

J.Lo, of course, is free to have as many kids as she would like, but isn’t it a shame that so many parents today make the conscious decision to only have one child?

It robs your child of a brother or sister. It robs their children of an aunt or uncle. And it robs your grandchildren of first cousins.

It’s the epitome of selfishness.

34 Responses to “Is a sibling the greatest gift you can give your first child?”

  1. 1 Jasmine, Singapore
    October 16, 2009 at 19:01

    Absolutely untrue. If siblings are merely a result of parents wanting their first child to have the experience of kinship and companionship, then it seems as if all second siblings exist because of parents’ warped notions of generosity.

  2. 2 Roy, Washington DC
    October 16, 2009 at 19:11

    If we continue down this path, the pros of giving a sibling will be outweighed by the cons of overpopulation.

  3. October 16, 2009 at 19:39

    The question is too simplistic. There are endless gifts you could provide your child, tangible, intellectual, or otherwise.

    “Is a sibling the greatest gift you can give your first child?”

    No, the greatest gift to them is love, attention, affection, dedication, education.

    Personally, I’m an only child, now nearly 40. I can still clearly remember my mother asking if I wanted a little brother or sister. I didn’t hesitate to answer: “No.”

    I didn’t feel alone or sad. Didn’t feel like I was missing out on something special.

    I was the center of attention. I got to interact with the adults. Not shunted off to “go play with your brother.” I loved it.

    Decades have now passed. I don’t feel any differently. I don’t long for a sibling.

    I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

  4. 4 Yankho Somanje
    October 16, 2009 at 19:43

    I am Malawian with one child and honestly he is quite a handful. Yet i spend most of my time at home with my wife and child and am lucky enough to earn without having to fully participate in my investments.

    Most Malawians however work for very long hours and usually it is both parents. This clearly means a lot more children are growing up without parental guidance.

    This inturn will prove to be a social cost as juvenile deliquency is on the rise (including in my country).

    I therefore believe that having children is a good thing but there must be a limit. One child should be enough. Two (which ought to be the maximum) should only be attempted with the full realisation that one is pushing the limit

  5. 5 Debbie
    October 16, 2009 at 20:06

    I am an only child and truly never felt the need for siblings while I was growing up, HOWEVER, as an adult, I really miss the experience of having a sibling. As I get older (I am 48) and my parents get older, I realize that when they are gone I will have no one to share my history — my childhood memories with. This makes me really sad. I also miss the experience of having an adult sibling — being an aunt to a niece of nephew, that sort of thing. My husband also comes from a small family that is not very close, so I feel that my children also miss out on the sense of extended family. I have two children that are 6 years apart. My original plan was to have one child (at that time in my life I still thought that was the perfect number), but as my son got a little older, I realized that I really wanted to experience having another child; raising siblings. It is the best decision I could have made. Even now, with my children being 21 and 15, my heart fills every time I see them talking and laughing together, and I know that after I am gone they will always look out for each other.

  6. 6 Peter Chinaman
    October 16, 2009 at 21:01

    When I have to share the pie, I wish I’m the only son. There is nothing like family. We learned to share.

  7. October 16, 2009 at 23:17

    depends, culture and traditon applies

  8. 8 Ermenegilda
    October 16, 2009 at 23:53

    I am the eldest of three children. My brother was born 18 months after i was and my sister was born just 12 months after him. I have no memory of my life before my sister was born and infact my first memory is seeing her for the first time. Though at times they can become my worst enemy, they are also my two best friends. We stand by each other through thick and thin.

    Siblings are also the only people in your life that you go through your whole life with. Parents bring you into the world, and naturally will die before the end of your own lifetime. Partners (lovers, husbands and wives) come into your life when you are an adult, when you are already established. But siblings, especially those born close together, are the only people who will in theory follow you through life. They are there when you are a child, they are there when you are an adult and chances are they will still be there when you are old and gray.

    Siblings is possibly the greatest gift my parents ever gave me, because they gave me my closest friends.

  9. 9 saad, Pakistan
    October 17, 2009 at 07:40

    Nope. Not at all. I think love, affection, good nourishment, environment and education are the greatest gift one can give to his sibling.

  10. 10 jade
    October 17, 2009 at 15:10

    This may be a very narrow outlook but the question is centered around the family, not the world at large. Yes, if they both will enjoy the same intensity of love and attention. No, if only one will receive more love and attention, leaving the other to question “why?” The animosity will affect the other child, first or second. I mean, parents need to first examine how much they can afford in all aspects of child raising and nurturing before giving birth.

    I have heard that in some culture, the men decide how many children the women will have, or the more “genetic replication” the better. But, that just shows it’s easy to make children but not easy to think 20 years ahead. So, even if intelligent humans can feed ALL and ANY additional child, it is still a responsible parent’s duty to know own capacity and think ahead. That’s the difference between humans and animals.

  11. 11 Julia in Portland
    October 18, 2009 at 05:30

    I’d have to say with the fact that I have 3 brother and 3 sisters, that my parents were more than generous with that ‘greatest gift’

    They can be the ‘greatest gift’ and the ‘biggest pain in the …”, sometimes they are both on the same day. I’m sure they feel the same way about me.

    Wouldn’t trade them for the world, but we are from a different era. I do have concerns that too many people are still bent on having too many kids. I think that there are definite economic, environmental concerns that need to be considered before bringing babies into the world.

  12. 12 James Ian
    October 18, 2009 at 07:19

    Not so much, I guess it just depends on the child and circumstances. If you can barely feed and take care of the first one why make matters worse by having another. Yeah, just depends I guess.

  13. 13 kurcell
    October 18, 2009 at 12:34

    one cherished child per woman makes the child, the woman and the planet better

    more is worse

    there is no quality where there is quantity, and population is the biggest threat to the world

  14. 14 bobga daniel
    October 18, 2009 at 12:39

    a sibling can be the greatest gift to a first child depending on the person in question.When others are happy to have a shoulder to lean on,otheres are just too jealous as the previous attention is now tiltted to the new comer

  15. 15 nora
    October 18, 2009 at 17:14

    My son asked for a sister before his fifth birthday from the moment he could form sentences. He kept asking me to promise, and I eventually caved. I am a woman of my word. His sister was born three weeks early on the day before his fifth birthday. Both birthdays fall on the winter solstice and there is a primal, magical feel to the occasion each year. I think that people with siblings gain verbal, emotional and physical skills simply by sharing a children’s viewpoint, and in shouts and whispers, evolve their critique of adult folly.

  16. 16 John in Salem
    October 18, 2009 at 18:51

    The greatest gifts you can give your child are unconditional love and a belief in themselves – anything else, including siblings or even you being there to raise them, is a bonus.

  17. October 19, 2009 at 01:15

    The best gift you can give your first child are, motherly love, stability, confidence, education, and good home training.

  18. 18 mohsin1
    October 19, 2009 at 01:29

    I’ll remain on the subject and will not discuss environment, economics, or anything except to reply the question:

    Yes it is. My wife and I have 5 children. Three sons followed by two daughters. When our fourth child (daughter) was born and became two year old my wife decided the lone daughter needs a female sibling.

    We waited and God gave us another daughter after two years. Today, the daughters are 12 and 8 years old. Seeing them, we feel the decision was right.

    Now, the youngest daughter asking for a small baby [to care and play with]..

    Coming to question whether a sibling is the greatest gift;

    Yes, but a child’s needs are fluid. A child requires company of people junior to her, senior to her and in between. It also need healthy and strong parents (along with grand parents) who care, understand and guide throughout the lifetime.

  19. 19 Jennifer
    October 19, 2009 at 01:37

    There is something to be said for a sibling connection. I most certainly love my brother and I know he loves me too. I have learned so much from him. Siblings are priceless!

  20. 20 VJ NAMBIAR
    October 19, 2009 at 05:26

    Putting your child on the path to a life of fulfillment and happiness in his/her later years is the objective of most parents . And giving your child a sibling is an esential ingridient that goes a long long way towards achieving that .Teaches sharing , caring , independence , interaction and helps develops emotional stability in children . A sibling gives the child a shoulder to lean on in later years .

    Nuclear families and single children homes are today the cause of various psychological disorders in children .

    My sincere advise to young parents -NEVER stop with one , whatever the financial constraints you may have . For , giving a sibling is without doubt the greatest gift you can give your first child.


  21. 21 patti in cape coral
    October 19, 2009 at 13:09

    I don’t think a sibling is the greatest gift you could give your first child, love and attention is the greatest, but it’s nice to have siblings. I don’t think they are essential for a child’s well-being, but still nice.

  22. 22 Veronika
    October 19, 2009 at 13:15

    There is seven years between my sister and I and 19 years between my brother and I. He has Down’s Syndrome and the care and attention he needed lead directly to our Mother’s death. My sister chose not to have children, I have one son who in turn has one son both through choice. Neither I believe have lost out, are both “normal” intelligent, well adjusted people.

  23. 23 Kelly from Chicago
    October 19, 2009 at 14:49

    I have a younger brother who is deeply troubled. I have felt for years like an only child because my parents effectively maintained two families–them and my brother, and them and myself. While we lived in the same household and even now as an adult my parents will not share any information with me about my brother. I have no relationship with my brother whatsoever despite many, many attempts on my part. While having dealt with social anxiety in the past I’m a well-adjusted, self-aware individual who is happily married and successful at work…despite FEELING like an only child!

    I don’t think that children have a “right” to have a sibling, and I feel that many parents can barely handle the emotional/mental feats necessary to handle one child effectively, much less additional children. I don’t think it’s selfish to have one child.

    On the other hand, my husband comes from a large, warm, and open family. I now have two sisters-in-law that I have really been enjoying a new relationship with. It’s great! I never had sisters before and now I love to have them.

    I don’t believe this indicates families should only have two or more kids. Rather than try to force families to have more than one (what’s with yet another person insisting on their point of view for others?), develop extended family relationships, and try being sensitive to socially awkward people instead of rude. Isolated, socially awkward people will only increase in number due to population limits (China, anyone?) worldwide plus the increase of isolating technologies and cultural trends.

    Let’s all be nice, be more friendly, and less insistent on our own views. Yeesh.

  24. 24 Kalai in San Francisco
    October 19, 2009 at 15:48

    I feel love and affection is more important than the number of children.

    These kinds of articles promote ‘over population’ of planet which is already out of its fits!

    Adoption anybody? Whenever you are mentioning such things on quantity, please please specify something called “adoption”. Grow existing poor children rather than creating new ones.

  25. 26 Tom D Ford
    October 19, 2009 at 16:15

    I can just hear the second child talking with their therapist twenty years from now:

    “My mother had me just as a gift to her first born child, I’m just a toy doll to them, doctor.”

  26. 27 Dave in Florida
    October 19, 2009 at 16:38

    I am an only child and can only thank my parents for the fact that I did not have a sibling! Being an only child was GREAT!

  27. 28 Tom D Ford
    October 19, 2009 at 16:40

    Just when I had thought that the days of slavery, of human trafficking, were long past in the western world, this lady in Canada speaks of giving a child to another child to keep them company, that’s just like in the old Deep American South of slave times.

    I’d bet that Canada has laws against human trafficking and that she could be charged under them, if she actually had a child for the reasons she has written about and stated verbally.

    How about some respect for children and childrens human rights?

  28. October 21, 2009 at 05:21

    Why does a child need one’s own brother or sister when the world is full of them?
    Why this sense of possesion?

  29. 30 scmehta
    October 21, 2009 at 07:01

    If anything, a sibling is the greatest friend/companion that you can give to your first child.

  30. 32 Di
    October 21, 2009 at 10:36

    I don’t have anything in common with my brothers and have very little contact – so ask me if I benefit from having siblings and I’d say no. Now, I’m thinking about my son and I think the best thing I can do is help him and encourage him to maintain bonds with his closest friends. I couldn’t agree more with the saying “you can chose your friends but you can’t chose your family”.

  31. 33 vijay pillai
    October 21, 2009 at 18:43

    We are on a slippery slope for increased population mainly from thsoe who think a boy is only accepted as s child and if the man has 3 or 4 daughers, he would nto rest untill he become father of a son.

  32. 34 ahays
    October 24, 2009 at 20:03

    My husband and I are trying to decide right now about having another child. I was wondering if anyone has done updated studies on only children now that most only children spend a lot of time in daycare and at playgroups and so have to learn to share and socialize while still enjoying undivided attention at home?

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