Praise that child!
Our children need to learn self discipline, the difference between right and wrong. We all want our children to behave well, feel confident in decision making and grow into responsible adults. If they don’t, we feel that it reflects on us as parents, especially as society loves to point the finger at single parents and their unruly children!
The most important thing when disciplining is praise: praise good behaviour as often as you possibly can. If you weren’t praised as a child then it may feel difficult and may need lots of practice. If praise feels like you are patronising your child, you can think of it as acknowledgement of things done when asked.
Most adults feel children should respect them but do you respect them? It needs to go both ways, but a child will need lots of time and chances to earn your respect. Respect boosts self-esteem, and so much bad behaviour is a result of low self-esteem. Remember what it feels like when someone says something nice to us and it makes us feel good? We want our children to feel that.
Praise doesn’t always have to be specific to certain behaviours; it could be ‘you are very good at skipping’ or ‘doing the jigsaw’ or ‘putting your clothes on’. You may be at a point when you feel that your child is being so naughty that there is nothing to praise, but try ‘you have a really nice smile’ and they will probably give you one.
We might need to work on our own self-esteem and confidence, so write a list of what you are good at, whether it be driving without crashing the car, having enough money for the shopping each week or being a good friend. Stick it on the fridge and remind yourself everyday.
When your child is angry, what’s your reaction? Do you tell your child to ‘stop it’ or ‘shut up’? Or do you ask ‘what is making you unhappy, come and tell me about it’?
Parenting as a single parent, juggling so much, you are often tired so it’s easy to say ‘shut up’, but you can diffuse the situation by saying ‘I can see that you are upset’ – your acknowledgement is sometimes all they need.
Children need to know it is OK to feel hurt or anger or other strong emotions but that there are appropriate ways to express them.
When you are parenting alone you can’t always drop everything for their every whim – reassure them that although you are busy now, you will talk with them shortly; in an hour, at bed time or bath time.
If behaviour is really bothering you and you are finding it really hard – take a break, go outside, go into the bathroom, and remind yourself that you love them and you want to do the best for them.