Single Parenting, Part 4, by James Windell

Discipline and the Single Mom

There are challenges to be sure in being a single mom. But certainly one of those challenges is discipline.

Perhaps all parents would agree that co-parenting is the ideal because it’s great when your co-parent can step in sometimes and take over. There are times when everyone one of us parents may be overwhelmed by trying to cope with an issue that we’re not handling very well. When those issues arise, it’s wonderful to have a spouse or co-parent step in and say, “I’ll handle this.”

But when you’re a single parent, you’re on your own. There isn’t that other parent to come in as the relief ace. Without a father available, you’re going to have to deal with any problem all by yourself. But, that’s tough, although certainly not impossible. Obviously, lots of mothers have done a wonderful job parenting after the loss of a husband. Here, though, are some useful tips for being the sole parent and disciplinarian:

1.   Trust your instincts. If you have fairly good instincts as a parent, and especially if you were raised by competent parents, then trust that your instincts as a parent are fairly sound.

2.   Be consistent. It’s a cliché, perhaps, to say that as a parent one of the best things you can do is be consistent. But it is a valuable tool in your parenting arsenal.

3.   Set limits. One of the things you can’t do as a single mom is to try to make life easy because your child doesn’t have a father. Just the opposite is true. It’s not your job to make life easy; it is to make sure your child grows up with the best skills to be a successful adult. One of those skills is to develop self-control. In order to help your child develop self-control, you have to set limits and be firm and consistent with those limits.

4.   Monitor your child closely. I have always loved the title of a parenting book written many years ago. The title was: “Hold Them Very Close, Then Let them Go.” That to me epitomizes the task of a parent. Supervise and monitor children very closely in the early years, but as they get older and show they are using good self-control and judgment then you can loosen the reins a bit.

5.   Be authoritative. Things go wrong when parents are either too lax or too harsh. The better course is to be an authoritative parent. Be firm, be strong, but don’t be harsh, rigid, or overly controlling. There’s an art to being an authoritative parent and it’s important to strive for this.

6.   Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Part of being authoritative is to make decisions and stand by them. But in doing so, you are going to make mistakes; all parents do. Admit your mistakes when they happen and move on.

7.   Keep in mind that discipline is about a whole range of options, not just about punishment. The best parents don’t think first about how they can punish when a behavior problem occurs. Instead, they think about teaching and bringing about change. Typically, children don’t learn best from punishment; they learn from being taught. If you can think of yourself as a teacher, instead of a disciplinarian, you will be an excellent mom.

8.   Finally, maintain a sense of humor. You can take the job of parenting seriously, but don’t yourself too seriously.  Parenting can be fun and it’s fascinating to watch your child grow and develop into a wonderful personality. Children often have a terrific sense of humor. Nurture this sense of humor and you can both share lots of laugh while you’re guiding them toward adulthood.