Disciplining as a Single Parent

By David Frisbie
By Lisa Frisbie
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Jojo Ensslin

Take a level-headed approach to leading your family.

When a tag-team wrestler wearies in the fight, he works his way to the corner of the ring. Tired and worn out, he reaches to tag his partner — who then replaces him on the mat. Weary single parents often wish they could ease over to the corner of the ring, tag a partner and take a break. But that rarely happens.

Raising children alone means that, for the most part, you don’t have a partner ready to jump in and help. Whether you are well-rested or worn-out, whether you are physically healthy or coping with illness, you’re still on duty. As a single parent, you have a nonstop assignment that can feel like a never-ending wrestling match.

As we work with parents at The Center for Marriage & Family Studies, one of our goals is to help single moms and dads gain control of their households and manage the daily challenges with authority and composure. Single parents feel healthiest when they know that their kids respect and obey them.

But exercising parental authority does not come naturally for single dads who fear losing their kids’ affections or single moms who are too tired after work to play enforcer. Even though it takes effort, discipline is essential to a healthy family. As your kids learn to obey, your own stress level drops, and peace more frequently fills your home.

One aspect of managing kids well is teaching them that you mean what you say. Tired of all the arguing and whining, single parents often resort to making vague threats, repeating earlier comments or raising their voices in frustration and anger. As the situation escalates, single moms or dads may descend into name-calling, badgering, insulting or inappropriate physical discipline. All of these unintended consequences flow from a lack of control.

To avoid this kind of escalation, help your kids understand that you say what you mean and you mean what you say. The following principles will offer you guidance as you train your children to obey.

Clearly define the pathway to reward

“When you have eaten everything on your plate, we’ll have ice cream.” This statement sets up a clear reward — ice cream. It also clearly defines the pathway to and timing of that reward—”when you have eaten everything on your plate.” With this fact established, your children are now responsible for whether they choose the pathway to reward.

Trust their word, but verify their work

“When you and I have looked at your homework together, and when I see that it’s complete, I’ll get out the Wii and you can play until bedtime.” The advantage of this rule is that you eliminate the temptation to lie. Children know they can’t avoid doing homework by declaring, “But I already finished it!” because you will check the homework for yourself.

Don’t cave

As you establish firm boundaries and give clear instruction to your kids, expect to be tested. Make it obvious from the start that you will not be swayed. Help your children understand that you are simply announcing the decision that has already been made; you are not inviting a debate. This new style of parental communication will take effort on your part, but the rewards reaped in your home life will be well worth the perseverance.

As we often tell single parents, good parenting is not limited to those who have a built-in tag team. By learning to say what you mean and mean what you say, you build credibility with your children and train them to respect both you and your authority. Your kids will gain life skills, and you will gain a sense of calm control as you cope with the challenges of each new day. 

Copyright © 2011 by Dr. David and Lisa Frisbie. Used by permission.

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

You May Also Like

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.