I don’t really like being the one who has to discipline my son who is twelve. That is one of the down sides to being divorced especially when the father is more absent than not. Every time my son has needed to be disciplined since the age of three it has fallen to me because he lives with me and doesn’t see his Dad very often. As I said, I don’t like to be the disciplinarian, but someone has got to do it so I pull up my big-girl panties and shoulder the responsibility and do the best that I know how to do. I don’t want my son to grow up being an entitled out-of-control adult who thinks that he can get away with just about anything short of murder! My son is not the first child that I have reared as I have three adult children as well. I disciplined them also when they needed it but I always felt that I was a team-player in their discipline because I had the backing of their Dad. But since I am now a single Mom all forms of discipline are my responsibility. Fortunately he is a pretty good young man and gives me little trouble, but every now and then his grades will fall below an acceptable level or he doesn’t listen to me and I have to remind him of what is right and wrong for him in his behavior.
In the first years while going through the divorce I read a few books on raising boys or being a single Mom of boys. I found them to be very encouraging as I felt very overwhelmed. My son is adopted and I had thought that I would have all kinds of help in raising him but after his Dad left the marriage I was really quite alone. The books I read gave me encouragement that I really could raise a good son without the input of his Dad. I have been very thankful for the men that have helped my son to learn how to act as a guy. Men from our church have taken time each Sunday to shake hands with him and ask how he is doing. He has some male teachers which also has been a great help. But when it comes to the disciplining of him, I have been the one charged with that duty. I have learned some things that I might share with any of you who are having problems with your child, especially if you are a single Mom.
- See him for who he really is and encourage the interests he has and not the interests you think he should have. For instance I thought he should play baseball and so I made him do so for one summer but he didn’t enjoy himself very much. He learned and he tried and he improved a lot, but his heart just wasn’t in it. He doesn’t really like sports and so I decided to not force him to play sports.
- Recognize his academic limitations and don’t worry if he isn’t an all A student. My adult children were all A students and all three have college educations but I knew early on that my son was not an A student. Trying to force him into one was not going to get us anything but tears and sorrow so I embraced the fact that he is a solid B student and praised him for what he could do. We both worked hard to get him to learn to read, write, and spell and now that he is in middle school he is doing very well. He even has some A’s but still mostly B’s and that is okay with me. He is doing the best that he is capable of doing.
- If at all possible make some form of music as a part of your child’s education. When my son was in third and fourth grade he took guitar lessons and loved them. Now he is taking piano lessons and enjoys being able to play the piano. He didn’t want to be in orchestra or band so he is taking choir and he seems to enjoy singing. I think music is good for children because it helps them develop their brains to be able to multi-task. When you are using your feet to push pedals on a piano, and using your hands to play the keys of the same piano, and then looking up at the book to know which notes to play that is a lot of multi-tasking that you are doing. Music can also be relaxing and a life-long enjoyment for my son as it has been for me.
- Make the punishment fit the crime and let it be age appropriate. When he was small I used the time-out chair. As he grew older I used words and logic and reasoning. When I said no I didn’t mean for him to nag me until I gave in. I meant “no!” When he is old enough to drive if he disobeys me then I will take his car keys away from him and he will be seen with his Mommy driving him to and from school or work or even on a date. By the way I don’t think I will give him permission to date until he is forty, by then I will probably be dead and won’t be around to chaperone…just sayin!
- As my son got older I asked him what he thought his punishment should be and he often thought it should be harsher than I thought. For instance when he was about eight years old he was not listening to me and broke something so I asked him what his punishment should be. He thought for a moment then said that he shouldn’t eat supper for a week. Now that was simply too harsh so I told him that I thought it might be better if he wrote me a letter saying why he was sorry for breaking his toy. He learned a lot more from the letter writing because he had to stop and think about what he had done and why it was a careless thing to do.
- I always take the time to listen to his explanation even if I don’t really want to take the time because I want him to learn to give a well thought out explanation for his behavior. I realize that it is easier to be patient with just one child than it was with three but I tried to be patient with my older children as well. Sometimes there really is a good explanation for something that has happened and it is always a good idea to let your child talk to you about the situation. In this way my son knows that I do care and am not punishing him out of anger or revenge.
- Be fair because often life is not fair and you are the only one as the parent that is in your child’s corner rooting for them. I have been called to school once because my son punched another boy. I also found out the whole story and realized that while it was not right for my son to punch this boy the other boy was hitting him and being so obnoxious and unreasonable that my son probably didn’t have much choice than to fight back. To punish him for defending himself I felt was wrong so I didn’t punish him. What I did instead was to talk to him and make certain that he understood why fighting was wrong and I helped him see how the fight could have been avoided. Then we discussed how to avoid a fight in the future. This was tough for a second grader to understand but he finally got it and that boy and he were best friends after that until we moved away.
- Pray with your child when the discipline time is over. I always pray with him so that he knows that I love him no matter what, just as our Heavenly Father loves us no matter what we do wrong. Helping him to see that confession of our sins is a part of the Christian life can be taught through such prayer time with him.
- Tell your children of the struggles you had when you were a child or perhaps even still have as an adult and talk about how you have worked to change your behavior. I think that children should know that parents are not perfect and that we do make mistakes sometimes but that we learn from them and try to do better. I also tell him how I pray to God about my wrong doings and ask for forgiveness from others as well as from God. After all parents need self-discipline and have areas we work on daily, right?
- Always be sure to tell them that you love them and that you will help them make better choices in the future if they will just come to you and ask for such help. My son and I can talk about almost anything. We have had talks about puberty and girls and the future as well as about why Dad is the way he is and how big is God and so much more. I think of two of my favorite verses from Proverbs.
The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions. On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found, But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding. Wise men store up knowledge, But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand. Proverbs 10:11-14, (New American Standard Bible or NASB).
Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6, (NASB).
I want my son to be a wise young man and there is no better place for him or me to study about wisdom than from the book of Proverbs because King Solomon wrote it for his sons so that they would be wise and not foolish in their youth. I want my son to be righteous and filled with goodness rather than being a person that goes with the crowd and gets into all kinds of trouble. I want to train him to love God and to obey the teachings of Christ and be a Godly man, good husband, and father. I want him to grow in wisdom and grace and be a son that I can be glad to call mine. I am sure that you want the same for your children. It isn’t an easy path when we are single parents raising children all alone. But it can be done and I tell my son that he and I have the best Father in the whole world because our Daddy is God. No one messes with one of God’s kids and walks away unscathed. He likes that too. Hang in there single Christian parent, you can do it!
Until next time…Katherine