Single Mothering Like A Boss
How to raise independent children, tips from a single mum
I am no parenting expert. I honestly don’t believe there is such a thing. I do a lot of things as a parent that are questionable and some things that seem to work, at least some of the time. I’ve been pondering on how I have had both of my kids doing lots of things for themselves from a young age. I think this is largely due to being on my own from when I had an almost five year old and a 19 month old. I needed and continue to need the help! I also don’t want to raise a son that isn’t equipped with life skills as a man or a daughter who thinks she is the only one who has to do all things domestic.
- Provide clear expectations and structure
I love a good list or chart, especially if it’s pretty. Sad, but true. Discussing what needs doing and writing it up together makes expectations clear and if involved in the decision making kids are more likely to be on board. My latest is a DIY letterboard at the front door noting what needs to be done, packed etc before leaving the house for the day, also noting in bold ‘these are not mum’s responsibility’.
- Give responsibilities
Since the kids were quite young, I’ve had a list of chores that they are responsible for in order to get their weekly pocket money. When the older once learnt to push boundaries and said he’d rather not have the pocket money, I made it clear that the chores need to be done regardless and they only get the pocket money if they do them without complaining and without me having to ask more than once. My message is we all live in the house and we’re all therefore responsible for keep it running. As I rush around the house doing all that’s needed to maintain it, I ask myself, can one/both of the kids do this instead. If so, it gets added to the list.
- Teach life skills
Managing money, cooking, laundry, keeping commitments. The kids get half their pocket money in hand and the other half is put in their accounts. They are also not allowed to go into credit to buy something. They are now both cooking once a week and stripping their beds. If only they could make them up again! They are expected to follow through with any commitments they make. My son was picked to join the school choir and wanted to join. I told him if he accepted (I certainly wouldn’t have), he has to be committed for the full year as that’s what is expected along with weekly before school lessons. Half-way through the first term he was over it (of course), however, I wouldn’t permit he quit. He’s now in such a fab mood every Thursday morning before choir lesson….not. But he goes…and sings.
- Provide choices and explanations
My daughter is known to have a complete meltdown because she can’t choose what to wear. It’s seriously infuriating to the point where I often have to remove myself from the room for a few minutes to breathe so I don’t swear at her. The meltdown ends in her curling up in a dark corner somewhere sobbing. Yesterday it was shoes. Firstly, I ask ‘is this a big problem or a little problem?’ Occasionally, she’ll yell that it’s a big problem, but she usually knows it isn’t. Then we talk about what the weather’s like and what she’ll be getting up to so she can decide what would be most comfortable. When I explain that it’s going to be windy and raining after she’s decided on a singlet, shorts and thongs, she’ll need to own it.
- Give confidence and praise
When I’m in the background seeing how frustrated one of the kids is becoming, I intervene with praise. My left-handed older one without a lot of upper body strength trying to chop a large, hard carrot, ‘wow you’re doing a really good job there, that carrot’s a tough one’. My younger one trying to tie her shoelace for the third time, ‘you couldn’t tie them so well only a few weeks ago, look how well you’re managing now, it doesn’t matter how long it takes’ (even though I’m freaking out inside at how late we are).
- Be patient and expect mistakes
There are many occasions where I just want to step in and cut the carrot or tie the shoelace, or cook dinner that night because I can do it quickly, clean up the kitchen and sit down with a wine all before they’ve got to the second part of the recipe, however, I force myself to sit back. And when a mistake is made, I don’t rush in to fix it for them, I ask if they have an idea of what to do. This is probably the hardest part for me. While they’re pouring the whole bag of flour in the Thermomix and all over the bench, me laughing somewhat nervously and saying, ‘cooking’s all about getting messy’ doesn’t come naturally to me, but I try.
I find the trickiest part is to not ‘give in’. My son is a master negotiator and is very persistent and when hounding me and hounding me for pocket money in advance to buy one more stupid Xbox game it can be very tempting to say yes just to shut him up. When it’s announced netball games will now be on Friday evenings where the last bloody thing I feel like doing is driving to and from a game and sitting in the rain, I say no, you can’t quit netball because you like to chill on Friday evenings (don’t we all) as you’ve made a commitment. It’s hard but they (mostly) seem to thrive with consistency.
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I’m Lou Lou
Hi there gals. I’m Lou Lou and five years ago I lost my best friend, the love of my life, the father of my children and my stability when my husband died very suddenly and my world was completely torn apart. I literally had absolutely no idea how I would move forward and honestly didn’t think I would. I wanted to fast forward my life to a minimum of ten years on.
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