Only Child Parenting


My only child is a perfectionist. Now that I have identified the reason for Joshua’s stress at school, it is time to learn about it and help him deal with it. I know I am not the only one who has experienced this and I also know this will apply to a lot of first born children too. I know because I am a first born child. I learned to moderate my perfectionist tendencies when I was in my twenties long before I had Joshua, but alas, it is in his genes.

Today was the orientation for middle school. He will be in 5th grade next year and was initially all excited because of the new things they will experience (iced tea at lunch and study hall before going home every day). Now that he has experienced a day-in-the-life, he is worried about the stress of it all. I anticipated his concern and stopped the head of the middle school after his presentation to ask for some pointers so I would know how to begin to prepare Joshua and also so I would know how to pray for him. He acknowledged the school tends to turn out overachievers because it is run by overachievers. LOL At any rate, he understands my dilemma and I think he will be a good resource for the future. He had 2 thoughts to get me started.

First, is to point out the differentiation between perfectionism and excellence. So what is the difference? Perfectionism is to be without fault or error. The only perfect person is God, so to try to be perfect is to set yourself up for failure…and nobody likes to fail (ESPECIALLY not a perfectionist!). Excellence means outstanding or extremely good. Excellence is something to strive for…it is continuous improvement. Doing your best and then raising the bar a little to be better next time.

Second, he used the analogy of someone hanging from a bar. A perfectionist is constantly holding on with both hands in a death grip. Afraid to let go…”I mean, what will happen if I let go?” He said it is ok to let go with one hand every once in a while. You will still be able to hang while holding on with one hand. You won’t drop to your death. And then if you decide you want to grab the bar with both hands at a later date, you can do that. After all, your other hand is right there.

These are definitely some good thoughts. I am sure I will have many conversations with him (and the school counselor) as we navigate middle school for the first time next year. On a side note, I am so thankful that Joshua has a great group of friends who know how to have fun and are supportive of each other. I know that is one of the struggles middle school children experience. I will continue to pray for his friends for this reason…they are an important part of his life.

Take a walk with me down the halls of my son’s school. I want to introduce you to several children. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. LOL

Gabriel is mischievous and fun-loving. Always getting in trouble and adding grey hairs to his teachers head. He has lots of friends and does well at school. He’s rarely stressed and wonders why his name is always on the board (well, not enough to ask, mind you!).

Nicholas is silly with his friends and at home, but serious about school. He does all his assignments for the week on Monday even though they aren’t due until Friday. Tell him the rules so he can follow them. He is deathly afraid his name will show up on the board (but of course, it never will!). Plays football and soccer.

Ben is quiet and intelligent. He doesn’t like answering questions in class because he doesn’t like drawing attention to himself. He leaves all his assignments until Thursday because, well, they aren’t due until Friday!

Carter is the class clown. He loves the limelight and is always saying goofy things to make his friends laugh. He knows he is smart and leaves his assignments and studying until the last minute because, well, because he’s smart! He follows the rules at school but gives mom a run for her money at home. Swims and plays tennis.

What do all these boys have in common? Nothing, right? Actually, they are all 4th grade boys and they are all only children!!


I am participating in the fantastic online bible study over at Melissa Taylor‘s blog. The study is based on Karen Ehman‘s book Let.It.Go. Boy have I learned a lot.

This weeks’ chapter is called Micromanaging Instead of Mothering…ouch! With an only child it is so much easier to just do it for him.  It isn’t like I have 6 kids and they HAVE to learn to tie their own shoes or we would never get out the door.  I am ashamed to admit that my son didn’t learn to tie his shoes until he was 7.  It was easier for me to do it for him than to teach him to do it himself.  Rather than teach my son to fold towels, shirts and underwear, I did the laundry myself.

That is, until I was challenged otherwise.  My son goes to a private Christian school.  Yes, we are blessed.  The lower school counselor has a book study in the fall and in the spring.  This past October it was the book called Cleaning House by a lovely lady named Kay Wyma (who hails from the great city of Dallas just 20 short minutes from my house!). The subtitle was “A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement.” I almost don’t need to say more, but I will.  LOL

I thought I was helping my child by pampering and doing everything for him.  What kid wants to do chores?? The problem came when he started to expect things to be done:

Him: “Mom, I don’t have any socks.”
Me (thinking): “You’ve been walking past a basket full of white laundry in my room for the last 3 days!”

What starts as an expectation for socks to magically appear in his drawers, can turn into him thinking the world revolves around them. I mean, kids think that way when they are little anyway, then as they get older we reinforce in their developing minds.

  • Junior doesn’t get invited to a party, so we call the parents and ask for him to be included.
  • We “help” with homework because we don’t want him to get a bad grade (he might be disappointed).
  • We give every child a trophy. Heard from the child who actually won a local gymnastics meet, “What’s the point of winning if everyone gets a trophy?”

Entitlement has permeated our culture. It starts out as our tying their shoes because it is quicker, and turns into our clearing away every difficulty before it can slow them down or disappoint them. By the time they are ready to leave the nest, they have no idea what they can do or who they can be. Today’s generation of young adults is self-labeled “Gen Me”.  The world revolves around them, they want what they want and they expect to get it.  And if they don’t get what they want, they will call their parents and they will get it for them!

Stop the madness – teach your child to do things for themselves when they are young. Hold their hand, teach them to succeed. Then they will be able to use their hands to lead the next generation.

In 1998, Bob Hostetler wrote the 31 Biblical Virtues to Pray for Your Kids for Pray! Magazine. The leader of our mom’s prayer group handed out cards with those virtues so we could pray for our kids.  Well, I just have 1 kid and I found myself having a hard time praying through them so I decided to type up the 31 biblical virtues for an only child. These are not my work and I copied them from the resource listed above.  I just thought other only child moms might appreciate the adaptation.

1. Salvation. “Lord, let salvation spring up within my child, that they may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” (Is. 45:8, 2 Tim. 2:10)

2. Growth in grace. “I pray that my child may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 3:18)

3. Love. “Grant, Lord, that my child may learn to live a life of love, through the Spirit who dwells in them.” (Gal. 5:25, Eph. 5:2)

4. Honesty and integrity. “May integrity and honesty be their virtue and protection.” (Ps. 25:21)

5. Self-control. “Father, help my child not to be like many others around them, but let them be alert and self-controlled in all they do.” (1 Thess. 5:6)

6. Love for God’s Word. “May my child grow to find your Word more precious than much pure gold and sweeter than honey from the comb.” (Ps. 19:10)

7. Justice. “God, help my child to love justice as You do and act justly in all they do.” (Ps. 11:7, Mic. 6:8)

8. Mercy. “May my child always be merciful, just as their Father is merciful.” (Lk. 6:36)

9. Respect (for self, others, authority). “Father, grant that my child may show proper respect to everyone as your Word commands.” (1 Pet. 2:17)

10. Biblical self-esteem. “Help my child develop a strong self-esteem that is rooted in the realization that they are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:10)

11. Faithfulness. “Let love and faithfulness never leave my child, but bind these twin virtues around their neck and write them on the tablet of their heart.” (Prov. 3:3)

12. Courage. “May my child always be strong and courageous in character and action.” (Dt. 31:6)

13. Purity. “Create in them a pure heart, O God, and let that purity of heart be shown in their actions.” (Ps. 51:10)

14. Kindness. “Lord, may my child always try to be kind to everyone.” (1 Thess. 5:15)

15. Generosity. “Grant that my child may be generous and willing to share, and so lay up treasure as a firm foundation for the coming age.” (1 Tim. 6:18-19)

16. Peace-loving. “Father, let my child make every effort to do what leads to peace.” (Rom. 14:19)

17. Joy. “May my child be filled with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Thess. 1:6)

18. Perseverance. “Lord, teach my child perseverance in all they do, and help them especially to run with perseverance the race marked out for them.” (Heb. 12:1)

19. Humility. “God, please cultivate in my child the ability to show true humility toward all.” (Tit. 3:2)

20. Compassion. “Lord, please clothe my child with the virtue of compassion.” (Col. 3:12)

21. Responsibility. “Grant that my child may learn responsibility, that each should carry his own load.” (Gal. 6:5)

22. Contentment. “Father, teach my child the secret of being content in any and every situation, through Him who gives strength.” (Phil. 4:12-13)

23. Faith. “I pray that faith will find root and grow in my child’s heart, that by faith they might gain what has been promised.” (Lk. 17:5-6, Heb. 11:1-40)

24. A servant’s heart. “God, please help my child develop a servant’s heart, that they may gain what has been promised to them.” (Eph. 6:7)

25. Hope. “May the God of hope grant that my child may overflow with hope and hopefulness by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Ro. 15:13)

26. Willingness and ability to work. “Teach my child, Lord, to value work and to work at it with all their heart, as if working for the Lord and not for men.” (Col. 3:23)

27. Passion for God. “Lord, please instill in my child a soul that ‘followeth hard after you,’ one that clings passionately to you.” (Ps. 63:8)

28. Self-discipline. “Father,  I pray that my child may acquire a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair.” (Prov. 1:3)

29. Prayerfulness. “Grant, Lord, that my child’s life may be marked by prayerfulness, that they may learn to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Eph. 6:18)

30. Gratitude. “Help my child to live a life that is overflowing with thankfulness and giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5:20, Col. 2:7)

31. A heart for missions. “Lord, please help my child to develop a desire to see your glory declared among the nations, your marvelous deeds among all the peoples.” (Ps.96:3)

If you want to carry a printed version to remind you pray, click here.

This is another great video on the truths and myths surrounding only children from ABC News. Susan Newman, PhD a premier psychologist with strong view on only child parenting was interviewed for it, so it is a must-see. : )

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