Dr. Janis Neece, a psychologist who has counseled families with discipline issues and is also a mom of two preschool children, says single parents in particular should have a network of support to help them with discipline issues.


"In two-parent homes, the husband and wife can bounce ideas off one another," she says. "Single parents don't have that, so it's important they have other Christian adults they can go to for encouragement and advice."


Neece also advises single parents to plan a reasonable amount of personal time away from their children, although it may be difficult to pull off. Take advantage of a friend's offer to look after your kids for a while. Resist the urge to clean house on the rare afternoon when your kids are spending some time away. Resting and recharging will help you make wiser discipline decisions and be a better parent to your children.


Doing it Right


Neece also offers the following check-points to help single parents determine if they're on the right track when disciplining children.


Am I parenting for me or for someone else? Single parents in particular may feel like their parenting skills are being examined under a magnifying glass. Make sure your decisions are based on what you think is best, not the desires of a well-meaning friend or your own parents.


Is this decision consistent with rules I've laid out in the past? Your children will be confused if you ignore an unmade bed for weeks and then one day demand it be made.


Am I unusually tired or irritable right now? If you've had a tough day at work, you may need to unwind before making major disciplinary decisions.


What do I need my children to learn right now? Are you making demands that only result in a power struggle, or is there a social skill or a behavioral norm your children need to master?


The Payoff


In our culture of busyness, instant gratification and relative morality, parents find it challenging to discipline with consistency, maturity and unselfish motives. However, accepting that challenge and trusting God to help us meet it yields the blessing of children who, like the Son of God Himself, grow in "wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52).


Reprinted from Christian Single magazine (c) November 2002. Used by permission.


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