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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 each other.

As adults we build relationships by:

• Dialoguing
• Responding
• Discussing
• Clarifying
• Questioning
• Affirming and
• Empathizing

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. ( 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 to come.

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.

Unknown facts:
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 behaviors.

Tell your children they are safe. You the single parent are the Safe Keeper ( 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” say,

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 as well.

• Teach your children stress releasors.

Deep breathing
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 though

• 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 or hiking

• 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 of Peace.”

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.

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