Being a single mom brings up all kinds of problems. It isn’t just that you have to go out to work as well as raise your family. It isn’t just that you have to do all the housework, all the driving, all the bill paying. It isn’t even just that you have to worry about your kids’ health, nutrition and their education.
Any of those things would seem enough for one person to deal with, but put them altogether and you have a lot on your plate. You can’t just be Mom, you have to be Dad as well. And, as Mom and Dad, you are solely repsonsible for bringing your kids up right. Now, that means dealing with the tricky topic of discipline.
Discipline is so much easier to do when there are two of you. You can play the tried and tested ‘Good cop, bad cop’ routine. You can trot out the old line; ‘Wait til your father gets home’. More often than not, these strategies, developed by Moms and Dads parenting teams over generations, work. Also, there’s just something about Dads that seemingly carries greater authority than Moms for kids. So, if you’re a single mom, you have to find ways to overcome the absence of this authoritarian figure in your kids’ lives.
But, what about your strategies? As a single mom, you need to instigate and maintain discpline strategies that work, but you havent got recourse to all of the old established ones.
Of course, not all kids are the same, and each child will have his own response to different discipline strategies, so you have to develop a certain amount of flexibility. But, to give you some pointers, here are some ideas that have been proven to work.
- If your kids are old enough to understand, sit down together and have a family conference. Get them involved in setting the rules, and let them suggest some themselves. If they don’t like any of the rules you feel are important, explain why they are necessary and non negotiable. Make a family poster illustrating the rules. Review the rules and their effectiveness every month.
- Keep it simple. Too many rules just confuse kids. Stick to what’s important.
- Always be consistent. Don’t change the rules part way through, or your kids will never know what’s OK and what’s not.
- Practice speaking in a low but authorititive voice. Simple depth and tone of voice is what often makes kids listen more to Dad than they do to Mom. Of course, you don’t have to sound like a man, but practicing a firm, slightly lower than normal speaking voice can reap rewards.
- Try to avoid shouting. If the kids see you losing control they won’t listen to what you are saying.
- Try to use praise more then punishment. The carrot is always more effective than the stick, unless things have gone too far. Let your kids know when they have done the right thing.
- Avoid physical punishment. It only reinforces that you are not in control and teaches kids that violence is OK.
- Have a visible rewards chart. When your kids behave well, note it on a chart…maybe with stick on stars. When they have accumulated a certain number of stars they can have a treat. Equally, rather than using punishment when they do wrong, you can take stars away according to the gravity of the misdeed. That way, your kids have a clear account of the effects of good or bad behavior.
- Use Time Out. The technique of removing the naughty child from the situation that is making them misbehave and insisting they spend some time in a quiet place alone such as sitting on the bottom step, (NOT locked in a bedroom!) is often very effective, It calms the situation and allows the child time to think about what’s happened. If your child refuses to stay, patiently return him to the chosen Time Out place as often as necessary until he accepts it and stays put.
- Know when to ignore bad behavior. If the misdemeanour isn’t very serious, simply ignoring your child can work wonders as it allows him to work out for himself what he’s doing wrong. Say he’s jealously demanding your attention when you are busy with the baby, simply refusing to respond to his behaviour can be a useful strategy. When he stops, talk to him, praise him and explain that as soon as you have finished what you’re doing you will be all his.
- Remove priviliges. This strategy is effective with older kids especially. If they’ve overstepped the mark, you can remove the privilige of going out with friends for a certain length of time, for example. Or, with younger children, removing a favourite toy for a prescribed time is also effective. It avoids the need for shouting and pointless recriminations and allows the child to discover that her actions have consequences.
- Set sensible boundaries. As your children get a little older, setting sensible boundaries helps them define their ideas of what they can and can’t do. Kids need boundaries: it not only helps keep them safe but actually makes them feel safer. For example, tell them they can watch TV/ use the internet/see their friends for one or two hours each evening (age appropriate), but only after they’ve done their homework. It’s then up to them how soon they get to watch their favourite programs!
- Be reasonable. Kids need a little freedom as they grow, so be reasonable when you set the rules. Teenagers will want to hang out with their friends, so let them do this but agree the places they can and can’t go and set a clear time that they must be home. Make sure they know that can always get hold of you on the phone if there are any problems.
- Don’t side with your child against figures of authority. If your child is in trouble at school, let them suffer the consequences, be it a detention or similar punishment imposed by school rules. If you are really sure that the teacher in question has made a mistake, don’t say so to your child, but make an appointment to talk it through calmly with the teacher. Backing your child everytime she gets into trouble at school just makes her lose respect for the teachers and her behavior will worsen as a result.
- Get grandparents onside. Grandparents can really help with discipline problems. Talking to them about your child’s bad behavior in advance and asking them to stick to the same rules gives consistency and gravity. It shows your child that it isn’t something you have arbitrarily dreamed up, it is a rule that other people agree with.
Single moms can often feel quite alone when it comes to discipline, but staying calm, being consistent, letting your kids know that actions, (good and bad) have sonsequenbces will give them a heralthy attitude as they grow up. And it should make your life a lot easier too!
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