Here is a zinger cheat sheet for single parents



Leaders: Print this page and share it with the single parents connected to your ministry.

Imagine tools that will help single parents eliminate the need for yelling, screaming or threatening their kids when conflicts arise. Single parenting is never easy, but I’ve developed a cheat sheet that has simple but effective tips that will help single parents navigate the flash points that inevitably arise when they deal with their children.

Before we go any further I realize some single parents will say they can’t discipline their child if their ex doesn’t cooperate. Or they will complain that the ex has no rules. I hear this from dads as well as moms. The truth is you can’t control what goes on in the other home. If you try you will only be spinning your wheels and set yourself up for a rough time parenting.

Parent the children in your home the way you think the Lord wants you to parent them. Children learn very quickly what is accepted in one situation and what is not accepted. They will act one way at childcare or at school and completely different with the single parent.

While we wish every divorcing couple would cooperate and work together, it is unrealistic to think that will work long-term. If it does you are one of the lucky ones and very blessed to have a co-parent who cooperates.

The ones – one tip, one word, one idea,, and one scripture

One tip: Set boundaries for yourself. You are the model for your children. When you show strength, endurance, and healthy living skills your children benefit. Examples of boundaries single parents need to adhere to and develop.

  • Dating
  • Work/career
  • Finances
  • Discipline
  • Personal habits
  • Spiritual habits

One word: Bummer! Bummer conveys empathy and sympathy but doesn’t take ownership of the problems/situation. Use it when you want to get a point across to your child in a few words. Most single parents end up talking way too much. Your children tune you out after a few words.

Let’s say your child forgets their lunch yet again. When they call and ask you to bring it to them yet again, you say, “Bummer. I bet you’ll be really hungry at dinner tonight. Have to run. Bye.” A child missing one meal won’t damage them.

One idea: Allow kids to suffer the consequences of their actions. Your child forgets their coat when they go to soccer practice. The consequence is they are going to get very cold outside.

Loosen up and find the humor in different situations. It’s okay to smile and laugh to yourself at different times. It just might be what keeps you sane as you parent alone. Of course, if it is freezing you might want to have one of your coats in the car. Your son will need to wear mom’s coat or your daughter will have to wear dad’s jacket.

One scripture: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

Phrases to use

These are short phrases single parents need to memorize and use.

  • “Bummer!”
    Say as few words as possible when using bummer. When you continue to gripe, complain, and threaten you have undone the simplicity of the word “bummer.”
  • “Because I said so!”
    Sometimes our children just need to trust us. This can only happen when you have a relationship with them and are trustworthy yourself.
  • “You did it!”
    Saying this affirms the child’s actions were right on target. It also sends a burst of serotonin to their brains. Serotonin is the brain chemical that helps us to feel good.
  • “That was helpful.” This phrase affirms to your child that they are contributing to the situation.
  • Describing what they did. “When you explained why your little sister couldn’t play with your toys you were being kind.”

Phrases not to use

  • “Good job.”
    This is a generic phrase and doesn’t describe the child’s actions. Plus it is your judgment.
  • “Be good.”
    What does this phrase mean to a child? It is vague.
  • “Be careful.”
    If you use “be careful” it should be with a description such as, “Be careful when you open that soda after shaking it. What do you think is going to happen?”
  • “Knock it off.”
    What does this mean? It might work for teens or tweens but I’d be very careful using it with younger children.
  • “Zip it.”
    Again, what does this mean? It is ambiguous.
  • “Don’t” as in – Don’t run, don’t talk loud, don’t scream.
    Don’t doesn’t tell the child what to do.
  • “You have to share.”
    Children in step-family situations shouldn’t be made to “share” everything with the steps. They already have to share their parent with those other kids; don’t make them share their personal items too.
  • “Play nice.”
    What does “nice” mean to the child?
  • “Don’t be naughty.”
    What is “naughty” and what if being “naughty” is fun?

Things to remember

  • You are not your child’s friend. You are their parent. God has put you in charge of His little ones and this also includes those tweens and teens
  • Children need opportunities to make choices. Being able to make choices helps children (and parents) feel like they have some control in an uncontrollable world. “Do you want to put your book bag on the couch or the table? Do you want water or juice to drink? Want a red or blue cup? Want to drink it sitting or standing?” Choices empower a child.
  • Children need to experience the consequence of their actions good consequences and bad consequences.
  • Keep in mind complying is a learning experience for kids who haven’t had any boundaries, limits or borders in the past. Give your child time as you teach, model, and help them internalize the boundaries you set.


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on July 2015.

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3 thoughts on “Here is a zinger cheat sheet for single parents

  1. Pingback: DC4K » When grandparents have custody of the grandchildren – discipline and how the church can help

  2. I need something like this, thanks for sharing. Here in the middle of night taking care of my youngest but worried about how to be a better mom and recover my self at the same time. Mother of three boys, doing my best every single day! But my person needs time for herself, and a lot of extra energy!!!!

    • Claudia, thank you for writing. I do understand needing time for yourself, is something many single parents need and don’t get.

      I’m glad this article helped you. Keep on keeping on my single parent friend.
      Linda Jacobs

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