Step Back Parenting
By Linda Ranson Jacobs
Description: Because single parents operate on over
load most of the time and you have an extremely stressful
job of parenting alone. You will need to learn new parenting
techniques. Literally learning to stop and take a step
back when a situation arises brings calmness to various
situations. This workshop will help you become a healthy
single parent raising successful kids.
2 Corinthians 1:10 “Give me wisdom and knowledge that
I may lead this people…..”
In your home, what happens when your two year old deliberately
provokes you by looking straight at you and then pours
his blocks al over the floor and leaves them? And worse
yet, he laughs and runs.
Do any of you find your teenager yelling if she doesn’t
get her shirt ironed just right?
Or what about when your child’s third grade teacher
calls to tell you your son hasn’t turned in his homework
all week? And it’s Thursday?
The road for a single parent is especially hard at times
like these because you have no one to share their thoughts
with or discuss how you are going to handle these situations.
The single parent is it! Does the question go through
your mind of “How do I handle all of this alone?” If
it hasn’t, it will.
Many single parents don’t realize that when parenting
their children alone that you have to build a different
kind of relationship with them. While you used to parent
with someone, now your relationship with your children
is going to be different because you are “it” in your
home. If you don’t have a good relationship with your
child, you can’t discipline him or her. If your child
doesn’t live with you full time or you share custody
and living arrangements then you will especially have
to work on building the relationship. Relationships have
to be forged.
To discipline means to actually ‘teach’ your child
what you want and expect them to do. I also look at
it as modeling and training that develops self-control
in each child. Discipline is relationship specific.
Single parents need to build relationships with their
children in the same way we build relationships with
As adults we build relationships by:
• Affirming and
As adults when we meet someone new and we want to form
a friendship or a relationship we begin to talk or dialogue
with the other person. We may respond to their questions
or we discuss something we have in common. When they
tell us something, we may need to clarify what they are
saying to us. Or we may affirm the other person and last
but not least we empathize with them when we hear of
something that is troubling them. This mindset needs
to follow the same process when building relationships
with children. One way to encourage the relationship
continue to grow is to set up rituals with your children.
Because of the current brain research information we
are learning that children need to feel connected. One
way to connect with children is to create rituals. One
research study shows that children going through a divorce
where the parent creates new rituals will process the
divorce several months faster. As adults we don’t realize
that things we do with children become rituals in their
minds. Maybe Daddy kissed his child good-by each day
and then Daddy is gone. That ritual is gone also. A new
ritual needs to be created so that it fills the void
left by the loss of that ritual.
One lady from Texas has created a ‘calm waters’ ritual.
Every day when she picks up her daughter she has a bottle
of calm water for her daughter to drink. It’s just plain
water but to the little girl it sets the tone for the
evening. It’s has a calming effect on her.
How many of you taken time to build a relationship with
your children? Or are you so busy just trying to survive
that you forget the child? That’s easy to do. Today I
want to explain to you a technique that will help you
continue to build those relationships with your children,
help you maintain your integrity as a single parent in
your home and also help you maintain a calm and happy
single parent home. It’s called “Step Back Parenting”.
Because single parents parent alone and being a single
parent is one of the most stressful job there is, you
need to learn to step back on different issues.
Teach yourself to literally learn to stop and take a
step back when a situation arises. Step back and take
a deep breath. When a person steps back, it is a reminder
to take time to think about what you are doing. Unless
it is an unsafe situation and as the adult you must act
immediately, you need to take your time. When a person
takes time to think, you will be fair to the child and
to yourself also. As a single parent I tried to think
through the issues. My sister on the other hand reacted.
Unfortunately many times her reactions weren’t carried
through for very long. For instance if my child came
home with a bad grade on a spelling test, I would not
comment on it until I had time to think about it. Upon
looking at the bad grade my sister would spew out something
like, “You are grounded for the next three months!” Of
course within a week my niece would be out and about
no longer grounded for the D on the spelling test.
I also taught my children to learn to ask me in advance
when they needed a decision to be made. This included
things like a sleep over, birthday parties, church socials,
etc. Many times I was tempted to answer right away. On
those occasions I would make my body step back. This
became a habit and it reminded me I needed to think through
all of the issues. For example at the beginning of my
single parenting journey I answered yes to my daughters
request. Without thinking about it I forgot that my kids
were scheduled to visit their father every that weekend.
Do you have any idea the confusion and resentment that
answer caused? All of that could have been avoided if
I just remembered it was his weekend.
For a while I had legal guardianship of my great nephew.
He was 15 when he came to live with me. I explained the
boundaries that I had set in my home. One of these boundaries
was for him to always ask me in 24 hours in advance when
he wanted to spend the night with someone or go somewhere.
I told him that since he was under my protection, I would
also need to find out all of the details or meet the
parents of the kids he might be doing something with
or spend the night. I explained that if he was invited
to spend the night with a friend that I would need to
call the friend’s parents and get to know them. Likewise
if he wanted to invite someone over, I would want to
get to know the parents. He thought this was a ridiculous
plan. Consequently there were several times he missed
out on attending an event or spending the night some
place because he couldn’t remember to ask at least twenty-four
hours in advance.
God gives us the gift of time. We can take our clues
from our Heavenly Father, the best Father of all. God
doesn’t give us immediate answers or responses when we
ask them. We are raising a generation of children that
have entitlement issues and who don’t know how to wait.
Everything is instant gratification. They want something
and they want it now. Too often we oblige our children.
What are we single parents teaching their children?
How will our children ever learn to wait on the Lord?
From the book Returning to Holiness, by Dr. Gregory
R. Frizzell we read (page 45), “Because children are
incredibly perceptive, they usually pick up more from
what parents do than what they say. Often without even
realizing it, parents are modeling values and habits
that have tragic effects on their children’s development.”
You are the adult in your family. Act like the adult
and keep your cool. When stepping back another self-control
technique to engage in is the star concept. Smile, Take
a deep breath, And, Relax or “S.T.A.R.”. This is a very
useful technique that I have learned to use quite often.
I learned it from Dr. Becky Bailey who wrote the book
Conscious Discipline. (www.consciousdiscipline.com) In
her book she says that “Composure is self control in
action.” If you model and show your children self control,
you will teaching them a life long living skill that
they can employ in many areas of their life for years
Is it easy for a single parent to keep your composure
when that 14 year old can’t get her blouse ironed and
she yells? No, but you are going to have to because you
are modeling this for your child. This is especially
true in single parent homes because many times the child
is angry so they will exhibit angry outburst. Something
else that may be happening, though, your child may merely
be mimicking the other parent’s modeling. As a single
parent you don’t have control over what goes on in the
other parent’s home. But you do have control over what
goes on in your home and you can teach the child what
is acceptable in your home.
Many young children will turn fear into a humorous situation.
For instance a two year old may sense the anger in mom.
The child interprets this as fear and begins throwing
the toys and then laughs. When I had my grandson after
911 and both of his parents are in the military, it was
hard on him. He had to come live with Nana who lived
about five hours away from mom and dad. He was away from
his friends and his routine was different. One particular
morning we were running a little behind. I was trying
to rush him and he wouldn’t be rushed. The more upset
I became the more he laughed and dawdled. It dawned on
me that he was actually fearful of the entire situation.
I stepped back, took a deep breath and calmed myself
down. Then I remembered how much he loved Tella Tubbies
so I said, “Gage, ready set go-o!” in the same tone of
voice as the Tella Tubbies. When I said that I held up
his little shirt and he ran right into the shirt. I scooped
him up and said “Look at you. You did it, you ran right
into this shirt and we are almost ready to go.” I laughed
and he laughed.
Another thing that the brain research information is
showing us is that older preschoolers and elementary
age children are actually fearful and don’t feel safe.
When they don’t feel safe they turn this fear into aggressive
Tell your children they are safe. You the single parent
are the Safe Keeper (www.Consciousdiscipline.com) in
the home. It is up to you to keep everyone safe. And
it is the child’s job to help keep things safe. When
your child is throwing something across the room you
can say something like, “Throwing balls in the house
is not safe. What could you do that would be safe?” Your
child is not in trouble.
Following are some tips that might help you become a
better single parent:
• When giving directions describe to the child what
you want them to do. Instead of, “put the laundry away”
1. Get up off the couch,
2. Go to the laundry room,
3. Gather up the clothes
4. Take it to your room
5. Put it in your drawers.
For younger children or children with developmental
delays, the instructions may have to be broken down into
one or two lines at a time.
• Limit T.V. and computer time. Put your children on
an electronic budget. It really is okay to tell your
child they can only spend five hours watching TV during
the week. Help them plan what they want to watch. Give
them only an hour a day on computer games or electronic
gadgets. Doing these types of things will help children
learn to budget their time. If the child is younger,
then half an hour watching TV and half an hour can be
allotted for other electronic gadgets.
• Monitor the games they are playing. Research does
show that violent games lead to violent behaviors. I
believe this to be particularly true of children in divorced
homes. Many of them are angry anyway and they are confused
• Teach your children stress releasors.
Calming aromas – lavender, vanilla, etc.
• Give your children a lot of water. Children’s brains
tend to get dehydrated.
• Use calming C.D’s to help them unwind them
The resting heart rate is 60 beats per minute. Find
music that calms the child and slows the heart rate.
• Use brain stimulating C.D’s to encourage focusing
Classical music that moves vertically, helps brains
to focus (My son went to med
school and studied for many exams with classical music
playing into the earphones in his ears)
Rap music works well for ADHD kids, be aware of the words
• When children are aggressive, describe to them what
they are doing
• Develop daily commitment time. Write down your goals
for the day. For example, “Today I’m going to weed the
flower bed.” Or, “Today I’m going to read a chapter in
that book I bought.”)
• Have a time for checking off your goal and reporting
on the success of your commitment. (This raises serotonin
levels in the brain when you commit and then carry through.
Serotonin is a brain chemical that produces a calming
effect when released in the brain.)
• Exercise regularly together such as shooting hoops
• Read and pray on a regular basis
• Set up family devotion time and let the child be
responsible for the devotion on a designated day
2 Corinthians 1:10 “Give me wisdom and knowledge that
I may lead this people…..”
As a single parent your people are your children. It
is important for you to create a safe home where you
are in charge and where you are the leader. Allow God
to be in charge of you and your life. Model making wise
decisions because you have prayed about things and because
you model your parenting skills the way God parents you.
Ephesians 4:2-3 “Be completely humble and gentle; be
patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every
effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond
Proverbs 24:3-4 “By wisdom a house is built and through
understanding it is established; through knowledge it’s
rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.”
Linda Ranson Jacobs
Single Parent Family Ministry
© 2009 by the author
This publication is protected under U.S. Copyright laws
[© Linda Ranson Jacobs, 2009] However, it is also a ministry
to those who need it ... so, while you may pass along
this article freely, please check before reprinting anything
in another publication. In most cases, all she requires
is proper credit.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Nothing in this or other emails or materials
from Linda Ranson Jacobs should be considered as psychological
or legal advice. Linda is not a psychologist, psychiatrist,
therapist, or lawyer. These suggestions are simply suggestions
and not guaranteed solutions to your particular problems.
Linda offers this information because she was a single
mom for years and ran a child care where the majority
of her children were from single parent families. She
offers support, encouragement, and suggestions to help
you succeed as a single parent.