How One Single Mom Copes with an Avalanche of Parenting Advice

Posted October 17, 2008 by

I’ve been thinking about the realities of being a so-called single parent. “So-called” because, although I may be divorced, the challenge of raising my son does not always include the feeling of being alone. Often, I feel inundated by advice from all sides: my mother, my friends, my son’s father, teachers, counselors, church members, the clerk at Wal Mart, political candidates — you name it, they want to tell me how to raise my 13 year old son.

Sometimes all the well-meaning suggestions combine to form a clanging roar in my addled single brain. “Send him to boot camp.” “Make him go to church.” “Try home schooling.” “Give more rewards.” The list goes on. Which solution, if any, is the right one for my child? It must not be anything I can think of on my own, or I wouldn’t be here at the end of this frayed rope. Right?

I had been fighting the “bad parent” boogieman for 12 years. Nothing I tried worked with my son, but then again, I never really knew how to interact with kids. Even the few attempts I made at babysitting as a teen turned out badly. (My little charges usually talked me into doing something we all got in trouble for later!) Fast forward 20 years, throw in a ticking biological clock, and you have a discouraged single mom. Thank goodness for the first chapter in my Total Transformation! It was eye opening to read about children who were similar to my son. I found myself excitedly underlining, circling and placing asterisks next to key characteristics.

So my son isn’t the only one who sees injustice everywhere, justifying his failure to follow rules? He also loves to set his own tailor-made (one-way) boundaries and train me not to expect too much from him. He loves to put off chores or conversations with feigned inattention. Apologies usually turn into blame. If he’d put a tiny fraction of the energy spent on distorting facts or making excuses into positive things such as homework, my life would be so much easier.

Knowing more about these common traits in “problem kids” helps me feel better about my situation. I am not a bad mom, I’ve realized; I just need to improve my parenting skills. OK, I know it’s never easy to change bad habits, but my desire to see my son change for the better is greater than my fear of failure. I love him enough to make us both jump through some hoops. No matter what advice others might offer, the best solutions are those that I customize to fit my household and my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get a lot of advice, but I’m starting to trust myself more and feel more confident about my parenting instincts.

How about you? Any parenting advice you’ve gotten that you’d like to share? And how do you deal with it?


Lola Howle is a Parent Blogger for EP.

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  1. JB Report

    If your child’s father is trying to be in your child’s life, and trying to co-parent along with you (which you may be interpreting as him “telling you how to parent”), then — and truly, I mean this in total respect — you cannot refer to yourself as a “single mother”.

    You are not one.

    Your child has a father. A father who, according to you, is at least taking some interest in his child’s welfare by offering advice regarding child-rearing.

    Maybe along with all of the training you get from the Empowering Parents series, you could consider empowering your child’s other parent to co-parent alongside of you. You might even consider inviting your child’s father to participate in the Empower Parents training along with you, so you both can use the techniques in a united fashion for the sake of your child. It may take some serious effort to put aside your own aggravation, bitterness, and contempt for the other parent… but really, don’t you love your child more than you hate his father?

  2. northportsuccess Report

    I have a bi-polar 16 year old and an ADHD 14 year old. It’s amazing to me how people who know nothing of your children want to give you advice, like you aren’t intelligent enough to gather that information on your own. Just because a child is not behaving “normally” in Walmart doesn’t mean you as a parent don’t have a plan or know what you’re doing. I try not to let it bother me too much because I know that these same people who are so quick to offer advice could not last a week with my children – that is IF they were willing to give it a try – and they’re not, they just want to tell US what to do. Sorry for the sarcasm but you hit one of my pet peeves. 🙂

  3. Parental Advisor Report

    You are right, you need to follow your own intuition. You know what is best for your children. The advice of others can be valuable, but take it with a grain of salt as you are the ultimate authority on the subject.

  4. Gina Report

    As a single Mom of just a few months ago, I find my married friends or even those that don’t know me very well, seem to doubt my strengths and parental knowledge. It’s almost as is if that because I’m no longer married with a “father” in the house, that I must not know what I’m doing. I stayed at home for 8 years with my children and now that I’m forced to go back to work, it seems my parenting credibility has taken a nosedive! This is very frustrating as I need my friends support now more than ever.

  5. Bea Report

    I receive this (and I am the grandmother). I send (forward) it to my grown children, not as “advice,” but as a confirmation that everyone has a situation at some time. When they do, they may remember reading this and use it as a way to think about what to do with their own. They are doing great jobs raising my grandchildren. Bea

  6. Amy Report

    I can relate very much. When my sister, with no kids, gives me advice that she pays attention to on TV, etc., I feel like saying, “mind your own life, it could use some improving!” Also, the ‘Walmart’ clerk remark also happened to me. After starting “The Total Transformation” program, I realized that I had been defensive because I really had no parenting plan and was performing on ‘hope it all goes well’ philosophy. Now, I have the plan and confidence that I’m doing what’s best for my child. External advice doesn’t phase me. I can consider it objectively and act on it if I choose. I have no reason to feel defensive, anymore.

  7. Becca Report

    Lola, I have this same problem as a single mother. Everyone is always telling me how to raise my kids! It’s frustrating, but I try to listen to my intuition and not let what they say botehr me. After all, we’re the moms. who knows our kids better than we do?



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