Jeff Miller, guest contributor
Raising a child is hard enough in a traditional, two-parent home, but for single parents, the challenge is even bigger. As a single parent, the responsibility for disciplining your children and shaping them into responsible, productive members of society rests squarely on your shoulders. You can’t rely on anyone else to do this. It’s your job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it’s an incredibly tough job to handle all by yourself.
Make no mistake—you have your work cut out for you. But if you’re committed to giving your children the structure and discipline they need and deserve, you can succeed at this major challenge.
Here are some tips to help you maintain discipline in a single-parent household.
- Make the rules clear—You can’t expect your children to know how to behave properly if you don’t set clear behavioral expectations for them. Don’t make up the rules as you go along. It will confuse your kids. Instead, come up with a short list of “house rules” that set clear expectations for what is and isn’t acceptable behavior. Don’t make too many rules though as that can be overwhelming and even oppressive. Aim for about 5 key discipline rules for your kids.
- Be consistent—The rules will inevitably be broken. Kids love to test boundaries. It’s human nature. As a single parent, it can be hard to constantly monitor your kids behavior and to hold them accountable for their actions, but you have to be consistent. The rules must apply at all times, because if you only enforce them some of the time, your kids will learn that they can break the rules and get away with it sometimes. Be consistent with enforcing the rules and delivering consequences for transgressions.
- Show your children plenty of love and approval—This is incredibly important. A lot of disciplinary problems are the result of kids not feeling loved or not getting the attention they need, so they act out. You have to affirm your love for your children on a daily basis. Make time for them. Be available. Talk to them. And show them praise and approval for their accomplishments and positive behaviors. When you find opportunities to do this, you’ll be encouraging positive behavior from them.
- Keep your home organized—This is especially important for those who become single parents after a divorce. Often times, the new single parent has a hard time keeping household routines and duties organized. As a result, things become a little more relaxed and discipline starts to slip away. Kids need structure. It’s important to stay organized and to give each kid his or her own household responsibilities and duties. Structure and responsibility help prevent kids from rebelling and slipping into negative behavioral patterns.
- Don’t try to be the cool parent—Again, this is especially important for recently divorced parents. If you’re sharing custodial duties with the other parent, it’s natural for you to want to be the “cool” parent. No parent wants to be the tough one. But the fact is that you aren’t doing your kid any favors by being the cool, relaxed parent. Your children don’t need you to be their friend. They need you to be their parent. That means maintaining discipline and structure in your home.
Are you a single parent? What’s your biggest challenge in raising your kids? Share your thoughts by commenting below!
Jeff Miller is the founder and senior counsel at DivorceYes.com, a law firm that offers clients affordable, flat-fee legal representation for divorce in Florida.