WHERE is the “Easy Button?”
Staples had it right when they invested that big red button for their advertising campaign. I just wish they had REALLY invented the darned thing! Life is no small task for most people, and being a single mom is not for the faint of heart.
Once upon a time, long ago, I was married and shared some responsibilities with another person. Granted, he didn’t take on too much, had no idea how to be a parent and even less inclination to learn – but it was another body in the house.
Do you ever get tired of doing it all on your own?
There are more days than I can count that I am grateful I haven’t had to be alone in this parenting journey. God blessed me with a loving and engaging sister. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, but more often than not she is on my side. She offers objective opinions, helps me to see situations from my children’s point of view and has saved me from myself more often than I can count.
I may want to strangle her tonight, but tomorrow we’ll still be together. We are family, and best friends – a wonderful combination cause she can’t get away from me!
Over the years, with her help, and the help of several therapists, I’ve learned strategies that have helped save my relationship with my children. No matter what stage in life we’re in – from diapers to married daughter and beyond, these have saved my sanity and my children.
Here are seven of my favorites – I hope they help!
1. Take a timeout!
Over the years, as my children were very young, I learned and appreciated the advantages of giving a timeout. It gave them time to settle down and me too! But, as they grew older it was something I phased out as they kept telling me how it made them feel like they were still a baby.
After trying – rather unsuccessfully – to deal with my youngest son’s anger issues, we headed off to a therapist who once again introduced me to “timeout.” Essentially it WAS a timeout from each other. The rule was whenever one or the other of us needed time away to calm down we told each other and we HAD to disengage.
Don’t wait until your child asks for a timeout, take one yourself first.
2. You need support.
Everyone needs support. It is literally impossible to do this job alone. You might sometimes feel like you’re alone but the trick is to be sure you aren’t. It’s likely you already have friends and family who would be there to help, but it’s important that you tap into that resource and use it.
Taking your life journey alone is a fool’s effort whether you have children or not.
3. Your children need a mentor outside of the four walls of your home.
Your children need someone other than you to help them balance their own life journey. It is helpful if that mentor is a man as he will give a different view to your children. That male can be a youth pastor at church, a special teacher or a friend of yours. It’s not necessary they spend hours and hours with your children, only that they are available.
4. Respect runs in two directions.
I am a BIG believer in respect – and I believe that respect runs in two directions. It’s a bit like the comments people yell at their computers – “Do what I want you to do, not what I’ve told you to do!”
In other words, your children notice when you show them respect; they learn how to show respect by watching a mimicking you. If you don’t respect them it will be exceedingly difficult for them to respect you. They may be able to fake it at an early age, but as they reach maturity this little mistake will drastically affect your long-term relationship.
If you want a relationship with your children when they have children it is a wise decision to show them the respect you demand from them.
5. Love is unconditional.
Both my daughters have had friends whose mothers were very open about how they didn’t want them. These girls were mistakes that essentially ruined the lives of their parents, or so they were told. In the first case the girl was first born, out of wedlock, supposedly forcing the parents to both leave school. After this they went on to have six more children, neither finishing college – but they always blamed their lack of education on their first daughter.
In the second case, the young girl was second born, always playing second fiddle to her older sister and being told that she was a ‘mistake’ as they only wanted one child.
In both instances the girls were permanently emotionally damaged by their relationship with their parents. Both wanted – and did – leave as soon as they reached 18. The first lost her virginity at age 12, searching for love – in all the wrong places. The second is writing a different story, but only because of strong relationships she has outside of her family.
You love your children unconditionally – no matter how angry they make you, no matter what mistakes they make. You don’t have to love or accept their behavior, but that has nothing to do with WHO they are. You love WHO they are and discipline WHAT they do.
6. God gave us two ears and one mouth – use them in proportion.
Most of us (me included!) love to talk. Most psychologists and therapists tell us that we often aren’t listening to the other person in our conversation but instead are formulating our response to their first statement. However, God gave us two ears and one mouth because it’s more important to listen than it is to speak. In fact, you’ll accomplish more in all your relationships if you listen to what the other person (including your child) is really saying.
7. Learn your love languages.
Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a phenomenal book called the Five Love Languages that literally saved my relationship with my youngest son. The basic premise is that we all communicate differently – which is common knowledge. However, those communication differences also include how we communicate love to another person. If the person we love shows love to us in a way we don’t understand we feel unloved.
After reading the book I could identify the way in which my son was communicating love TO me, and therefore understood love FROM me. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the way that I was communicating love TO him and he didn’t feel loved. This was feeding his anger and relationship problems within the family.
It wasn’t a quick fix, and it certainly wasn’t the only thing we had to do to make things better at home, but it was one of the pillars that made it all happen.
Over 25 years I’ve learned there are no quick fixes, no fast therapy changes, and no way that I could have done this alone without ending up in a locked room. These strategies are only the beginning, but they are a strong beginning, to achieving the goals you set for yourself as a single mom.
Whether your idea of success is a million in the bank, healthy children or a lot of strong relationships – only you can identify your definition of success and only you can achieve it. Having strong, healthy relationships with your children is a great start to accomplishing any goal.