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Catholic Activity: Considerations for Parents of Small Families

It is harder to cultivate a spirit of self-sacrifice and unselfish love in an only child, or in children with only one or two siblings. Here are some methods which may help.


If you have but one or two children, you should try to create for them opportunities such as exist in larger families to develop their characters. In particular, you should discourage selfish tendencies — a natural hazard in the small family. Since you can concentrate all your attention upon your child, you may tend to worry about him to a greater extent and to bow to his whims more often than do parents of a large family. There is a natural danger, therefore, that he will become accustomed to having his own way and will not recognize that others have desires which should be accommodated too.

In training an only child, it may help you to remember that self-denial is the virtue from which other virtues spring. You should therefore strongly resist the tendency to do everything for him and not permit him to want for anything. So that he may learn to get along with others, encourage him to cultivate friends. Invite them to your home where he will be the host and thus must exert himself to please them.

Finally, give him the freedom to develop in his own way. You must control the impulse to worry unduly about every ailment, to stand guard over him at play, to check up constantly on his teachers to make sure that they are doing their job right. Such actions would betray a tendency to interfere abnormally in your child's affairs. Unless you avoid them you may find yourself ultimately trying to dictate where he should work and whom he should marry, and you will make it difficult for him ever to make decisions for himself.

Activity Source: Catholic Family Handbook, The by Rev. George A. Kelly, Random House, Inc., New York, 1959

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