I am a recent single mom with two boys ages 5 and 3. How can I instill respect for my position as head of the house in my sons without the advantage of an authoritative voice or male presence?
Being a single mom definitely presents its own challenges, but it is important to remember that you have the ability to be both the authoritarian and the compassionate voice of the household. Being authoritarian is more than just voice tone; it also involves being firm in standing your ground and consistent in following through with both consequences and rewards. If you do these things, then your children will come to understand that you mean business and your word is final.
Your children are very young. Please don’t feel like their behavior will never change or improve. Their ages are perfect for implementing rules and setting expectations that can help shape their behavioral development.
Lay down some guidelines about what will and will not be tolerated. Tell them exactly what punishments will occur if the rules are broken. Sometimes children don’t know exactly what adults expect of them. Being upfront about what is inappropriate behavior can help eliminate some of the confusion.
I'm not sure how to handle my 8-year-old son’s recent behavior. He’s been acting inappropriately towards his 5-year-old sister by daring other children to kiss her, which upsets her greatly. When I confront him about it, he lies. We’re a new military family at our first duty station, and my husband just left. My son starts to cry and throw a temper tantrum when the other kids "don’t want to play with him" because he’s being too bossy. I am a young mother of three and very concerned about this.
Being a parent is a tremendous responsibility and having to do it alone while your husband is deployed can be overwhelming. If there are groups of other mothers who find themselves in the same situation, we suggest you consider joining one of them. It will at least help you realize that you are not the only one experiencing these problems, and at most you may learn some strategies that others have used successfully with their children.
Initiate preventive teaching to help your son change his behavior. Preventative teaching involves three simple steps:
- Describe what kind of behavior your want.
- Give a reason.
If you were to use it to address the "kissing" issue, it may sound something like this:
- When you are playing, “kissing games” are not okay. But let's talk about what other games you can play. If someone suggests a kissing game, just say "No, I am not going to play,” and walk away.
- If you find other things to play, you will still have fun and not get into trouble when adults hear or see what you are doing. And, you’ll be able to play with those friends more.
- Okay, let's say you are over at the neighbors, and someone says, "Hey, let’s chase the girls and kiss them." Show me what you would do and say.
If the behavior continues, use a different parenting skill called “corrective teaching.” There are only four steps, and it’s used to respond to your child's problem behaviors by teaching and practicing acceptable alternatives:
- Stop the problem behavior.
- Give a consequence.
- Describe what you want.
- Practice what you want them to do.
The Boys Town Press book Common Sense Parenting describes these skills in more detail. There are examples and guidelines on using effective consequences.