As in all the articles I have written, I emphasise how essential a child needs to have definite boundaries and consistency in discipline training is. For a single parent, this training is even more difficult.
Simply being a parent is daunting as you’re playing the seemingly difficult role of two parents, but as a single parent, there is the added stress of how to manage your time and energy. Difficult yes, impossible no! Granted, it takes time to instil your principles and values in the child, and, still have an opportunity to relax and laugh together, all of which are important.
In order to do this, sometimes, it will require you to sacrifice your relaxation time to do all this and also manage to get household chores done. Holding a full-time job, as is sometimes necessary for a single parent in order to care for the financial responsibilities of the family, it almost always requires that the single parent call for outside assistance. This often comes in the form of help in caring for the infant from a sibling, a nanny or grandparents. This often comes with its challenges as rarely will outsiders share your discipline ideas – thinking you’re either too harsh and rigid. Such as in the case of grandparents who thrive in spoiling their grandchildren, or you’re being too permissive in their opinion- as is sometimes the case in the eyes of your nanny.
Depending on how strong-willed the assisting caregiver is they may well try to enforce their ideals into the child, hence neutralising yours. Could this well be the beginning of a conflict on how to raise your child? It’s possible. But a lot depends on how you handle the situation as a single parent.
For this ‘co-care giving program” to be successful, it is imperative that you discuss how you want things done before you accept their help. It is also important for them to understand beforehand, your need to provide direction with regard to right and wrong to your child. You have the primary responsibility of training your child.
Grandparents, however, need to be guided so as not to oppose or compete with the child-raising authority of the parent. Otherwise, “they exceed their field of action as grandparents and become grandparent-parents,” says physician Gaspare Vella. Kindly but firmly let your parents know that you’ll appreciate any effort they’ll make to uphold at all times any discipline you’re trying to impart into your child. Sometimes they will feel that you are a little too strict and in other instances not strict enough, hence feel the need to interfere. Because of their experience in life, it is easy for grandparents to give advice.
Let them know that you acknowledge them, you do not have the same experience as they have and are bound to make mistakes. However, if and when such a situation arises in the future, any seeming shortcoming on your part should be discussed in the absence of your child. Correcting the parent in front of the child must not be done so the child doesn’t ever try to ‘play one off against the other.’ How about if you need to hire someone to care for the child? The problem is finding the right someone. This means carefully screening anyone you would entrust your child to. This may be a sibling or a nanny. Will she be willing to abide by your principles and house rules?
What do you really know about the prospective sitter? Does she have any previous experience or training in child care? While interviewing her take your child along and take not of how she relates to your child and vice versa? Does she have undesirable habits—like excessive TV watching, tobacco smoking, or drug abuse? As these will unlikely be answered honestly, you need to ask other indirect questions to hear what you’re not being told – and then ask these questions directly.
Like in the case of grandparents, discussing and emphasising your expectations before taking them in is important. Clearly define your view of discipline to them, that discipline involves training and instruction, not just punishment. They need to understand that disciplining your child is important to teach your child the value of obedience and good manners. Remember, that even if eventually find a responsible, caring individual, you often find to your dismay that today’s nannies are notoriously transient. For a child, this can mean periodically suffering heartbreak as sitters come—and go.
So whoever you finally settle to have as a ‘co-care giver’ always remind them that you appreciate the help they are giving in answering the child’s many and sometimes exasperating questions, the effort they are making playing together, reading to them and showing them how to write and listening to them read.
All these are invaluable training that they provide as they help in training and shaping your child.
Diary of a Travelling Single Mum
Read more: 5 Ways to be your Child’s Hero