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How One Single Mom Copes with an Avalanche of Parenting Advice

Posted by Lola Howle

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?

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