“People always think that single parents are doomed to fail. They view me as being a sad and pitiful mother who is unable to handle her son, let alone her life.” This is not just one single mother’s story. One mother even had a very difficult time with people around her. “I can’t find you a daddy”, she explained to her son with tears in her eyes. This was after the ‘millionth’ time she heard that she wouldn’t make it without a man. People were telling these mothers that their son needed a father, because they were unable to discipline them. According to these people they knew how to take care of a son, they knew how to be a mother. But to turn him into a man was a man’s job.
Everything is possible
That’s what these two mothers concluded after we had analyzed their situation, had given them some tools to work with and they had used them consistently for some time. Anything is possible, if you persevere. For one mother, taking control over her parenting skills meant fixing herself. This mother came to the conclusion that her son Jay (not his real name) wasn’t the problem. She said that she was the problem. She was the problem, but she vowed that it would end here and now. By holding herself responsible for the cause of this problem, she automatically took the responsibility to solve it. She had to take back her position as mother in her son’s life. He had been apart from her for a year when he was about 4 years old. She finished her schooling in another country and left him with her parents. Once she had returned, she had to win back his love and respect and set boundaries for him. This combination was very difficult. Once she started mastering this, she said that small blessings appeared.
What were some of these tools?
1. Letting him know that she was here to stay
By scheduling more time with her son, she could make him see that he belongs with her. He had become attached to his grandmother but disrespected both her and his mother. Jay never said good morning, always wanted to run off to his grandmother who lived next door and told his mom that grandma did things different. On top of that, Jay didn’t trust her because she was (almost) never home. This was due to the fact that she had 3 jobs.
2. Setting rules and boundaries
Now Jay had to life according to her rules and not those of his grandparents. He was unruly at home, in school and basically everywhere they went. He had temper tantrums, identity problems, adults and children were avoiding him… and he would hit his mom and his grandmother. It was a bit overwhelming for her, since she was the sole provider and mother and had just built a house. With mortgage payments and 3 jobs, this seemed impossible to change.
Still she introduced her rules for him. No hitting, no screaming, no temper tantrums and no disrespecting her. If he did display this behavior, he would have to stay in a corner of the living room for 6 minutes (You can watch the Supernanny episodes on YouTube for more inspiration). Afterwards she would tell him why he got the time out and asked him to say sorry. She also made a behavior board for him. It had two sides. One side had a happy face and the other side sad face. When he obeyed her rules, he received points. When he broke the rules, points were subtracted from the smiling side and added to the sad side. If he had earned an amount of points (on the smiling side), he received a present from her.
3. A fixed pattern
Jay needed regularity in his life. His mother had an irregular schedule and this caused restlessness in the mother-son relationship. To bring back some routine, this hardworking mother reduced the amount of time she was away from home and started working on some routine around the house. What did she change? She started dropping him off at school every morning and picked him up after school. They spent more quality time together and had more time to have some fun. This mother created a fixed pattern for her and her son. She had created an atmosphere of togetherness: “We go out the door together and together we come home!”
It took this loving mother 3 months of consistency in her upbringing to see some change. Let’s sum up some of the changes we observed.
– Jay was much happier,
– He talked about his day and accomplishments without whining and crying,
– He entertained us with his building blocks, was the DJ, helped with setting the table for dinner and explained to us what his mother had planted in the garden.
– Jay was much more respectful towards his mother. This was a huge contrast with our first visit.
– He stayed home. In the past he would quickly go to his grandmother’s house, when his mother had quests.
And on top of that he was doing very well in school, there was less complaining from his teacher about his behavior and he had started greeting his mom in the morning.
We’ll talk about the emotional change his mom went through in another post. They still have a couple of things to work on, but hey… there’s progress and Jay is finally saying: “Good morning mom!”
The tools we gave this single mom work for all children. If you have trouble raising your children, we suggest you start using these 3 tools we talked about above. It may take some time before you see change, but don’t give up. If you would like to talk to someone who has been through this, we can help you.
Image by © Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Corbis