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Questions single parents have about disciplining their kids: how you can help

 
 

8 Ways

 

Single parents frequently ask me for help disciplining their children. Remember, single parents are doing it alone and have no one in the house to help them parent late at night or during the day. It can get overwhelming, to say the least.

Here are eight examples of questions I get about parenting alone. Sometimes, single parents need more in-depth answers depending, for example, on their child’s age, developmental abilities, or other situations. But, for our purposes, these answers are short and to the point.

Please feel free to share this advice with the single parents in your church.

  1.  My kid is a whirlwind. He won’t sit still at school, runs at daycare, and fidgets during church. Help!

Your child might be using frenzied activity to keep his mind occupied if something like a recent divorce is bothering him. Try engaging him in physical activities, such as running, shooting hoops, or jumping rope. Explain that you think he is trying to keep his mind occupied, and you want to help him. Show him how to journal or draw pictures to keep his mind busy. At church, always have backup markers, paper, pencils—and lots of sugarless bubble gum. Chewing it will give him something to do with his mouth.

  1.  How can I handle it when my son’s third-grade teacher calls me to tell me he hasn’t turned in his homework for a week? And it was the week he was at his dad’s.

Listen to the teacher. Calm your fears and worries. Approach your son, and ask him what he thinks he can do to get his homework in on time—even when he’s at Dad’s. I would not confront Dad, mainly because a third grader needs to take responsibility for his actions. Give your son some choices as to what he thinks the consequences should be next time. Decide your consequences, and then follow through at your home.

  1.  I have one child who tattles on his brother all the time. It’s driving me crazy. How can I get the tattling to stop?

When he tattles, ask, “Are you telling me this to be helpful or hurtful?” If he says, “Helpful,” respond, “How is telling me this helpful?” If he says, “Hurtful,” you can reply, “In our house, we don’t hurt people. What could you do that would be helpful?”

  1.  What do I do when my toddler screams at me, and I can’t get him to pick up his toys?

Toddlers respond to singing and playing through situations. Mad faces and loud voices scare them. Your toddler might be reacting to your tone of voice or the look on your face. Calm down, and sing. Make up words to a familiar tune like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Brain research shows that, when toddlers and young preschoolers get scared, they often turn their fear into something funny. That’s why the more upset a parent becomes, the more a toddler runs away laughing and giggling. That tends to upset the parent more, and then the toddler laughs more. It becomes a vicious circle. Parents, stop, take a deep breath, calm down, and start over, whether you’re trying to get a little head into a shirt or the child into bed. Play the toddler through the situation.

  1.  My child is so very angry. She screams at me all the time and tells me she wants to go live with her dad. But her dad is the one who left, and he doesn’t want her living with him.

Many times, kids worry that you might also abandon them, so they test your limits to make sure you won’t leave them. In a calm moment, explain to your daughter that, no matter what, you’re not going to leave her, and you’re there to stay. Next, tell her that the judge decided that, for now, she needs to live with you.

Develop some sort a code, like pulling on your ear. Explain that, when her voice starts getting loud, her body is telling you that she needs to be reassured that she’s safe with you. Then give her the code. I might pull on my ear, wink, and give her a half-smile.

  1.  My fourteen-year-old is sneaking out of the house to see her boyfriend whom I’ve forbidden her to see. She won’t listen to me, and now she’s skipping school.

There are more issues going on here than sneaking out of the house and skipping school. First, get your teen to a counselor. Second, change your parenting style. Sit down, and write out your boundaries. Note that I said “boundaries,” not rules. Teens hate “rules.” Ask her what she thinks her consequences should be for violating each boundary. Tell her you’ll get back to her, and then pray and think about it. Then write out an agreement naming the boundaries and consequences for breaking each one. Pray, pray, pray. Have her sign the agreement.

  1.  My three kids fight all the time. How do I bring peace into this house?

Tell them that you are the Safekeeper, and they should help you keep things safe. Fighting is not safe. When your children start fighting, don’t ask, “Who started it?” “Why did you hit your brother?” “What are you fighting about now?” Say, “Fighting isn’t safe. What could you do that would be safe.” Or, “Fighting isn’t helpful. What could you do that would be helpful?”

You might get three journals. When your children fight, separate them into different rooms, and have them write out their side of the story. Time alone will calm them down and give you a moment of peace. After the journaling, you don’t even have to address the fight, unless you just want to. Remember, though, don’t ask “who,” “why,” or “what” questions.

  1.  Eating dinner at my house is a nightmare with my four-year-old. He won’t stay at the table with the older two kids and me to eat.

Before dinner, when everyone is calm, explain that you will all be eating at the table. Also, explain that, when you leave the table, it means you are done eating for the night. Get your four-year-old to help, for example, by setting the table. When he gets up from dinner, take his plate, dump the food, and put the plate in the dishwasher. He is done eating for the night. No warning needs to be given, just actions taken.

What are some questions about discipline that the single parents in your church have?

 

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