Being a single mom means you, and you alone, are the most important and beloved figure in your child's life -- with the downside that you also have to play the heavy when the time comes to enforce the rules. As the American Psychological Association acknowledges, in many nuclear families the male parent has traditionally been seen as the disciplinarian, but in a single mom household, mom has to be the one who dishes out punishment as well as kissing boo-boos.
Make a Plan
In a single parent household, cooperation is key. The book "Positive Discipline for Single Parents : Nurturing, Cooperation, Respect and Joy in Your Single-Parent Family" recommends family meetings, even if a family consists of just one mom and one child, as being the best way to establish a spirit of teamwork. Use these meetings to spell out your household rules and the consequences for breaking them, and to revisit and tweak such rules as necessary.
Accept No Excuses
Hold your children to the same standards as you would have if they lived in a household with both parents. Not having a dad is no excuse for misbehaving. If you are recently divorced and your child is acting out as a result of this, seek counseling to get him the help he needs, but have him understand that you are now the sole head of your household and he needs to listen to you and abide by your rules.
While you are the ultimate authority in your household, understand that there are times when your child may be required to follow someone else's rules. If your child's father has split custody or visitation rights, make sure to communicate with him as to your expectations, and have him explain to you the rules and discipline methods he uses with your children. It is essential that the two of you find a way to cooperate, so your children aren't confused by a double standard which allows them to act one way while they are at dad's house, and then have to do a complete turnaround when they are back home again with you. Communication with your ex also allows you to avoid the "divide and conquer" technique some children use as a way to wheedle extra privileges or avoid punishment.
Single parenthood can be overwhelming at times, especially if you have to work full time to support your children as well as being their sole caretaker. Rather than give up and adopt an "anything goes" attitude, reach out to family members or other single moms in your community so you can have the support you need to stick to your rules and find the best ways to enforce them. Even if you live in an isolated area, far from friends and family, you can find numerous single parent support groups online.
Focus on the Positive
While the media often presents an overwhelmingly negative view of single parenthood, the fact is that children take on the attitude displayed by their parent. Look upon single parenthood as a positive experience, and see the obstacles you face when disciplining your children as challenges that will allow you and your children to learn and grow together. Michael Lamb, psychology professor at the University of Cambridge, stresses that children from single-parent families can thrive as long as they have a good relationship with and feel supported by the parent. Establish your household rules, stick to them and be confident that you are doing what is best for your children, and they can grow up to be just as happy and successful as children who live with both parents.
- American Psychological Association: The Changing Role of the Modern Day Father
- Positive Discipline for Single Parents : Nurturing, Cooperation, Respect and Joy in Your Single-Parent Family; Jane Nelsen et al.
- Brief Therapy with Single-Parent Families; Anita Morawetz and Gillian Walker
- USA Today: Single Moms' Sons Can Succeed, New Research Shows
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