Regardless of the reason why, more and more of us are becoming single moms. With that role comes not only the sole caregiver, the lone lunch box packer, the only boo-boo fixer and the one tear clearer in the house, but the thankless job of discipline.
I often struggle with disciplining my three daughters and often wonder if I am doing it right. With no one else in our day to back up my methods, or contribute their own, I feel like it is up to me to take on the responsibility of discipline and the single mom.
As it turns out, it is not all in my head! Marisa Winfree, MA, an experienced school counselor, says that disciplining children as a single parent can be challenging. “Single parents do indeed face a special set of challenges that two-parent families do not face. But with a positive and determined perspective, single parents can and will be well equipped to correct any of their children’s negative behaviors.”
I’ve learned some tricks over time that have made discipline go a little more smoothly. And, no, the solution is not to yell louder!
Put the kids to bed early
I know it seems crazy but I have noticed that I get less attitude and bad behavior if my kids sleep really well. So my kids’ bedtime is 7:30 p.m. each night. They may not calm down and fall asleep until 8:00 p.m. or so, but when they do, they sleep a full 9 to 10 hours. The next day they are more pliable, more cooperative and less likely to react poorly to the smallest things. If I miss that window the next day is a nightmare. An added benefit to early bedtime is that I feel like I get a break before I go to bed. That just adds to my patience level the next day.
I have learned that the same discipline techniques bore my children quickly — so they lose their effectiveness. Recently, I started making my oldest write sentences when she sasses back. That seems to really be helping! For the little ones, put a toy away and tell them they have to earn it back with good behavior. I put it where they can see it so they can be reminded.
Ask for help
My neighbors are the closest thing I have to family nearby. I can call them when I am totally ‘done’ and they will take whichever child it is and deal with them. My kids listen better to others and having someone with their best interests at heart can really make a difference!
As a single mom, my mommy guilt is multiplied. There is just never enough time in the day. Sometimes I snap at the kids or react suddenly without patience. The guilt of that used to keep me up at night. But I have learned that I have to forgive myself. We all make mistakes and when we are the only ones in the house to handle every detail, is it bound to happen.
Trust your instincts
Everyone has an opinion and most are eager to share them. But when it is you and your kids and your life, you have to trust your inner mom and do what is right for you. Your inner mom knows more than you give her credit for!
As I learn to deal with my children and the boundary-pushing, changing attitudes and the effects of friends, I am also learning that the best discipline comes from a confident, dedicated person who understands that correcting behaviors is truly for the good of the child.
Sure, I get confused, second-guess myself and feel frustrated that I am alone dealing with some of their growing pains. But I also know that if I am disciplining because they need it — and not because I need it to make my day better — then it does not matter if I don’t have that hand-off partner. It only matters that my kids have me.