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Single Parenting Mistakes You Should Avoid

Finding Balance in Creating and Enforcing Your House Rules

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As a single parent, you have an amazing relationship with your children. Most of the time, they rely on you -- and you alone -- to create the structure they need, affirm who they are becoming, and keep them entertained. As a result, you may find yourself vulnerable to some common, and avoidable, single parenting mistakes.

1. Being Your Child's Best Friend

As a single parent, your relationship with your children is bound to be extremely close and unique, especially if it is just the two of you living together. However, instead of treating your relationship like a friendship, recognize it for what it is: Sacred. There is no other relationship in your life like the one you have with your kids. Cherish it. Protect it. But don't treat it like a friendship. Step back for a moment and recognize how confusing that is for a child. Children aren't capable, emotionally or physiologically, of maintaining on their own the safe boundary lines that our rules provide. They need us to do that for them. So save the emphasis on friendship for later -- when your children are mature adults.

2. Enforcing Rules Without a Credible Relationship

Kids who feel connected to their parents are more likely to respect and follow their rules. So make sure that you're taking the time on a regular basis to connect with your kids. Go out and have some fun together! Listen to them when they tell you stories about their day, the book they're reading, or a show they watched on TV. The time you spend nurturing your relationship in this way will lay a foundation your kids can firmly stand on when they're faced with future temptations and negative influences.

3. Expecting That Your Kids Will Never Fail

Two things happen when we forget that our kids are going to make mistakes: 1) We put on blinders and don't recognize it when our kids make poor choices and need our help learning to make better decisions, and 2) We miss out on the opportunity to have our kids learn from their "little" mistakes so that they can prevent bigger ones down the road. So realize that your kids will make wrong choices. They're supposed to! Instead of looking the other way or wondering if perhaps you aren't cut out for raising your kids, turn their mistakes into learning opportunities that will give your children the skills and confidence to handle their next challenge in a more positive way.

4. Overreacting to Your Kids' Mistakes

Especially as a single parent, you may feel like your kids' behavior is a reflection of you. In addition, you may feel an extreme pressure to "fix" problems when they arise, while also feeling ill-equipped to do so. This pressure can easily lead to overreacting when your kids make mistakes. However, realize that you're going to be much more successful at redirecting your child's future choices and behavior if you remain calm. Instead of yelling, practice the art of administering consequences in a calm, quiet manner, which helps your kids recognize that the consequence is about them, not you.

5. Having No Discipline Plan in Place

As a single parent, you're the one who needs to make the hard choices about what consequences to administer, and when. Instead of doing this in the heat of the moment, when you're overwhelmed with anger and uncertainly, develop a plan up front for how you're going to respond to various behaviors. Divide your kids' potential misbehavior into two categories: "major" and "minor." Then make a list of consequences for each type of offense, and share it with your kids. For example, minor offenses might result in the loss of one privilege (such as TV) for one day, while major offenses might result in the loss of all privileges for a week or more.

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