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Single Parenting and Discipline

I was in a small boutique the other day when I overheard a beautiful, teenage girl talking to her mother in a defiant, undermining tone that was hard to ignore.

The young lady in question appeared to be really angry. “I refuse go to the party anyway, because you never have money and always have a problem with paying for something that I want to do. It is not the first time that I think I am just a burden for you! Well, it will not be for much longer. As soon as I can, I'm getting out of this miserable life of yours!” The girl turned and walked out of the boutique whilst her mother just stood there, watching her walk away. With tears filling her blue eyes, the woman whispered in a voice choked with tears “It is not easy raising children alone.”

Single parents face many challenges – not only do they have to provide their children with the basics such as food, clothing and spending money-which in itself can be very exhausting- they also need to provide an environment where the child can grow and develop emotionally and academically.

It is not uncommon for single parents raising children to feel guilty over the fact that their children are not growing up in a home with both parents and often feel that they need to “treat” the children to compensate for their domestic situation. Often, this is where the trouble starts because children can quickly learn how to manipulate the situation to their advantage.

No matter what your domestic situation is- whether you are a single parent raising children alone or living in a blended family or a traditional household; it is essential to teach your children to show respect to others (this includes you) and in parallel with teaching respect, they need to be taught discipline.

Going Solo

Single parents should keep in mind that their children also need to come to terms with “being without a mom or dad”. It is important that you show your children you love them. Studies show that children of single parents are automatically prone to insecurities because society tells them that they are not “complete.” You can counter this conservative and hurtful view by telling your children how much they mean to you and that they are the biggest blessings you have ever received.

Some children raised in single parent homes may have a hard time at school– which could manifest itself by acting out at home. This could include stubbornness and being rebellious. That is why discipline is so important. If, as a single parent, you do not clearly set the boundaries with love and understanding those rules will be challenged constantly and you will surely encounter resistance and problems!

Help is at hand!

As mentioned earlier, coming home from a long, demanding day at the office to be greeted by stubborn, rebellious and unforgiving children at home can definitely negatively impact on one’s stress levels and parenting style. The following pointers will help single parents navigating the stormy parenting seas alone:-

UNDERSTAND YOUR CHILD'S UNIQUENESS: Every person is an individual and therefore will respond to situations differently from their siblings. By having your child's Genetic Brain Profile Assessment (hyperlink to done you will gain a better understanding of him/her.

SET BOUNDARIES: Your child should know exactly what is expected from him/her. They should be under no illusion regarding the consequences if they choose to bend or break the rules you have set.

BE CONSISTENT: Consistently enforcing rules that really matter and have an influence on the development of your child is more important than trying to dictate your child's life with rules. Your emotional status should never dictate how stringently rules are enforced.

MAKE YOUR EXPECTATIONS KNOWN: When an instruction is given, the desired outcome should be crystal clear e.g. “Please wash the dishes and dry them with the dishcloth before packing them away”

Establish schedules and routines- Part of creating stability and security in the home involves establishing predictable schedules and routines for your children. Of course, we must not be rigid and inflexible, because children need to learn that life is not always predictable. Find a healthy balance.

DO NOT COMPROMISE: Compromise is a natural reaction when emotion is part of the equation. Don’t fall into the Pity Trap – ‘shame he/she doesn't have a mother/father’ Whilst it may be true that your child is growing p in a single-parent home, you are opening an avenue for your child to misuse your best intentions and make up for the emptiness of not having a mother or father. Just love your child!

COMMUNICATE: Never underestimate the importance of being part of your child's everyday life. Open, regular communication is the only fail-safe method to find out what kind of support your child needs from you. Do not condemn honesty. Try to calmly hear them out and give loveable, understanding advice-regardless of how surprised or shocked you may be feeling on the inside!

For example, I have a friend whose 10-year old son told her that a girl asked him to be her boyfriend. When Mom asked him what that meant he answered by saying “I think she wants me to take her to Wimpy”. Can you think imagine how surprised Mom was by the reply?

LISTEN WITH EMPATHY: See the world from your child's' perspective, not that of an adult with many years of life experience. Try to ‘think young’.

PUNISHMENT: Your punishment must fit the misdemeanor and be within reasonable limits. Don't send a 5 year old to his room for 1 hour to think about his sin. They must also be able to tell you what they did wrong, otherwise they do not have any insight into their wrongdoing.

MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF – It is critical for your children's well being for you to take care of yourself. There are times when you feel like you need a break. Pay special attention to diet, exercise, stress management, and getting a good night's sleep. Learn a healthy coping skill which allows you to relieve stress and tension. Take a walk, read a book, call a friend or take a nap. A stressed out parent results in stressed out kids.

It is difficult and challenging to be a parent today and it is even more difficult to raise children alone. We as parents are often overwhelmed and lacking the parenting skills necessary to do a good job. Isn’t it good to know that good solid parenting has less to do with the number of parents in the home and more to do with the quality of parenting.

Enjoy your child/ren – play with them, talk to them and respect them.

Happy parenting!

Annette and Team


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