The parenting manual is the pamphlet they gave you at the hospital when you took your bundle of joy home. Oh, you didn’t get one? Me neither. Whether you left the hospital as a single parent or became one sometime later, you are not alone in looking for the elusive parenting manual.
Most single parents I know take on too much guilt. They take on the guilt for the mom or dad who left the child as well as anything negative that happens to their children. The former is a colossal mistake. You absolutely have no control over the actions of the other parent. What you do have control over is your attitude, your reactions and being an effective single parent. Having said that, it is time for you to create, edit or build on your personal “parenting manual”.
If you were to write your own parenting manual, what would that look like? What advice would you give and what topics would you cover? I have identified three of the greatest gifts a parent can give their children. Love, Encouragement and Discipline are three important concepts in raising children. The first two are critical in helping your child develop healthy self esteem. The last one teaches your child that there are consequences to our choices in life.
Easy to say and sometimes near impossible to show, love is the key to successful parenting. Your children need to “know” you love them. As a single parent, it can be difficult for your children to “know” love if one parent has left. A good support system is critical for you and your child. Extended or surrogate families can be a great resource that adds to the life of your child. It is vitally important that you embrace the good intentions and positive input contributed by those families. There will be negative or bitter family members who offer nothing but negativity. As a single parent, it is your responsibility to stand up for yourself and only interact with the ones who love and support you.
If you are like most parents, by the end of the day you are exhausted and short on patience. Finding the energy and words to spur your child forward in life can feel, at times, like climbing a mountain. Single parents may feel like saying, “Where’s my encouragement?” Remembering my struggles as a single mom where I faced criticism more often than encouragement, I needed to seek out positive friends and family members. Along with finding encouragement from loving friends, parents need to pass that on to their children. Each day take time to find something your child is doing well. This may mean compliments about completing homework or something as simple as encouraging them as they brush their teeth.
With so many books, blogs and advice columnists talking about discipline it can be difficult for single parents to feel confident in their discipline choices. The best advice I can give is to try to avoid second guessing yourself. Having the courage to discipline your child speaks volumes about how much you truly love your children. Disciplining your child impacts your child now as well as their future. You want to give your children their best chance in school, career and eventually marriage. Teaching your child that they can have whatever they want by refusing to set limits and enforce consequences is likely produce selfishness and a “me first” mentality. There has to be a balance. Children must understand that they have to work and live with others, which sometimes means compromising. Many parents who refrain from discipline for fear of “damage” actually run the risk of nurturing an “entitled” child.
L.E.D. can be your personal parenting manual if you choose to live those principals. There is not a perfect parenting method. Putting together a balance of love, encourage and discipline can help you and your child to move in a positive direction. Remember: it’s easy to become a parent but very difficult to actually BE a parent.