Monday, 15 November 2010

Out of the mouths of children...

I read an article today that claimed research had shown that lone children are happier than those with siblings. Having four kids of my own made me sit up and take note. My children seem well pleased at having siblings, so much so that they do occasionally beg for more of them!

Apparently a significant number of children had reported being kicked or hit by siblings. They also resented having to share toys and space with their brothers and sisters, and of course they had to compete for their parents' attention. Indeed, it struck me that these are utterly obvious and common afflictions of children with siblings. These so-called findings were then collated into the assumption that children who suffer such a life, are surely unhappy. How strange that these researchers did not take into account the love, attention, support and company children enjoy when they have siblings. Might not the constant availability of a playmate or mentor, the assured presence of a playground bodyguard, the support of a sibling in later life, more than cancel out the 'unhappiness' caused by having to share a room or wait your turn on the Xbox?

What a self-centered definition of happiness these researchers used as well! Sharing space makes children unhappy? Well, they better get over it, because when we grow up, we have to go on the tube a lot. Not to mention share our bed and bathroom with our life-partners. Having to share may send some toddlers into fits, arguably supporting the 'unhappiness' hypothesis, but so does having to eat vegetables. Yet no-one argues we should excuse them from the table to avoid this unhappiness because eating well is good for them. I pity the child who never learned to share, and grows up to find that they cannot have everything they want, and amazingly, the world is not fair. The shock and disappointment upon that realization after such a 'happy' childhood, would certainly scupper any attempts at happiness ever after.

When you have siblings, you have to compete for your parents' attention, you have to share your toys and your space. Would you rather it comes as a complete surprise to your children that, in the real world, they have to compete for the attention of employers?

Having parents and toys all to oneself may make for short-term pleasure, but with my kids, I intend to aim for the long-term happiness of well-adjusted mature adults.

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