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Children Behave Differently Without Siblings Around

Yes, the title seems like a statement from Captain Obvious.  But really, it’s a truth that is easy to forget.  Many of us have a whirlwind of children spinning around us each day.  Together, they often make up the perfect storm of whining, complaining, conspiracies of who did what to whom, and loud voices.  Calgon,
where’s my Calgon commercial??  Please take me away right now!

But, when these darling offspring of ours become a temporary only child, a transformation takes place.  Instead of the whiny youngest kid who still wets their pants now and then, you have the “model guest” at the grandparents house for the weekend.  Instead of the bossy domineering oldest child, you get the curious enthusiastic explorer at the library and the museum.  Instead of the moody and somewhat over-dramatic middle child, you get the quiet lighthearted sprite who just wants to be in your aura.

What is this voodoo about, anyway?  Who implants alien technology in their brains and turns on the wildness of sibling scream-fests???  Where are these docile, happy, cooperative children when we could really use the docile, happy cooperation?

It’s called family dynamics, plain and simple.  Everyone acts someone differently when they are with one other person as compared to two or more other people.  It gets even trickier when you have two or more generations involved.  Siblings have their own little sub-hierarchy to manage.  Parents and grandparents have varying levels of authority with each other and across the child generation.

So when a parent or grandparent gets a child all to themselves, don’t you think the kid just laps up the monopolized attention?  Can you see how that could bring out the best in them much of the time?  Competition is fine and natural, but there is just something different about having the spotlight all to yourself.

You as the parent or grandparent change somewhat, too.  Gone is the verbage about breaking up this fight or sending someone to the corner.  You have a better chance of resolving conflicts because it is just between the two of you.  You aren’t dealing with two or more interactions aside from your own that you may not have even witnessed.  It is just you two, kickin’ it together for a while.

I’m not advocating any particular size of family as better or worse here.  That is a personal choice.  Only children are great for some families, two or more children are great for other families.  But it’s just a truth that things change when more people enter the picture, especially more children together.

Finding one-on-one time for each child or grandchild is important for your perspective as a parent.  The youngest isn’t always the whiny one, the middle always the moody one, and the oldest the bossy one.  They can be something else for a while, and so can you.

Children Behave Differently Without Siblings Around

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP

Erika Krull, MS, LMHP is a practicing licensed mental health counselor in Nebraska.

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APA Reference
Krull, E. (2009). Children Behave Differently Without Siblings Around. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 27 Apr 2009
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