10 Tips to Single Parenting in High Expectation Situations

We started out the Easter weekend by going to Mass on Good Friday here. As always, the Mass prep talk and getting everyone ready started an entire hour before we actually had to leave for church. My kids are not exactly the tamest of children. If you are thinking high energy, uncontrollable chattering and fighting, my children probably fit the bill. You would probably find this familiar but the more you need them to sit still, the more they start inching around looking for mischief!

Of course, this does not just apply to going to church. Whatever your religion is, there are times when you need your children to just behave, whether it is a fancy dinner, someone’s party, or at a parent-teacher conference. This post can be applied to any of those situations, but since Easter is a weekend that requires multiple church visits and a whole other deal of attending parties and dinners, I found this to be an exhausting time most of all especially if you are parenting alone.

The Positive Feedback

When we exited the church, a lady in a lovely hat adorned with flowers (I didn’t think anyone wore those anymore but I loved it!) got my attention and told me what a great job I was doing with the children the entire time.

In actual fact, I didn’t even realize how good my kids were the entire two hours of Mass! I gave my thanks and appreciation to her comment then started running the events through my head. Yes, they did try to speak a little loudly every now and then, one of them even tried jabbing the other in the eye socket, but nonetheless they remained calm with as little fuss the entire time as they normally would have. (And this just brings me back to my point from last week’s post about how sometimes, we just do not give enough hugs!) I would have completely chewed them up if they misbehaved, yet I failed to praise them for their good behavior! Maybe because I thought that was expected of them?

Two things crossed my mind. One, everyone else realized my children’s good behavior before I did. Two, I can do this alone, it isn’t easy but it is possible.

A Miracle?

Again, you can apply this section to any occasion that requires your kids to behave themselves. Mass happens to be a challenging setting for us every week.

As always, I spend time packing for such an occasion – a box of crayons, lots of little notepads or loose sheets of paper, little Ziploc bags of candy (got this idea from my dad), little nothings like a small doll-size comb or a toy car. Today, the only things that we used were two crayons and notepads, and we only needed to utilize them as a distraction for less than 20 minutes. What a relief! Did a miracle just happen on Good Friday? Were my kids invaded by aliens?

In my mind, those would be way more valid explanations to how they managed to conduct themselves in public today. Yet, as I sit here pondering and reflecting on the moments before it all happened, I realized the little things that count. Those little things we take for granted and often overlook are the things that create our experiences with our children. I read in a book titled “The Whole Brain Child” that parents can make full use of difficult situations as opportunities to nurture children and help make sense of the emotions they are feeling, hence creating children who are well-connected and stable in their emotional realm.

Single Mums Parenting Guide

There are several things to remember when trying to neutralize your children in rowdy situations or have them act and behave as they are expected to. Here are a few things to practice each time you need your children to behave:

  1. Feed them. Children act up when they start feeling hungry or need a snack. Even adults become moody and grumpy, what more do we expect our children to do when they are starving? They should be fed enough to at least hold them over till food is served, yet not too much so they can’t have dinner.
  1. Set the rules. Rules aren’t made when things happen. You can’t expect a child to know that he isn’t supposed to throw his fork over at the other table if he wasn’t told not to do so in the first place. All our rules for specific occasions are set way in advance and repeated before or on the way to a dinner or church.
Parenting in High Expectation Situations

*Photo courtesy of Mindaugas Danys

  1. Practice the rules. There are many chances at home or in less formal settings to practice the rules. During dinner at home, we go over certain important rules like not talking with your mouth full or not sloshing food all over the table. Children who are constantly reminded of the rules tend to be able to remember them and carry them out easier.
  1. Remind them where they are. Constant gentle reminders of where they are and what is expected of them help children stay in control before bad behavior erupts.
  1. Entice them. Going to the park after? Getting dessert? Use these as reminders for children to keep behaving. Don’t threaten but a little nudge that indicates what is coming usually tells kids that all they have to do is behave themselves and they have something to look forward to.
  1. Keep them interested. A huge strategy that I deployed the entire time at church was to keep my children interested in what was happening, especially with the youngest one who is barely a toddler. While we aren’t supposed to talk during Mass, little whispers explaining the entire process and what each symbol means help children stay interested and keep their minds wondering what is going on. If they stay interested, they start paying attention and won’t have time to act out.
  1. Distract. When they are about the start squabbling, or when their interest has faded and they start fidgeting from being bored, distraction is probably the next best thing. On Good Friday, I used the “Hey look, squirrel!” tactic to distract my kids from snatching crayons from each other.
  1. Stay calm. Children feed off your energy. Many times, mothers freak out in anticipation of something happening. I noticed how much calmer I was this time round and my children weren’t sketch at all!
  1. Stay one step ahead. Always, always anticipate what your children might be up to. Even though they are sitting still, their little wondering eyes emits a sparkle of mischief once something has caught their attention. Stay ahead of the game and curb any mischief before it has a chance to erupt into a full tantrum or play storm.
  1. Use love. Tell your children how much you love them. Use love to calm and soothe them when they get bored or start getting into mischief.


Patience is the Mother of Virtues

According to a really wise man, patience is the mother of virtues. Many mothers expect their children to behave the first time they are told, or to drop what they are doing immediately. Children do not behave that way. Even when an instruction is given, children do not carry out their tasks that very second. Their undeveloped brains need time to process what was told and to figure out how to handle what is required of them.

The next time you get aggravated at trying to get your children to behave, take a deep breath and give them a little time to process it all. If your child is old enough, reasoning out their behavior also helps them understand why they should not be acting that way.

With practice, things tend to fall into place. Patience is important in nurturing young children and always set an example for them to follow. With patience and love, everything is possible…


Rock Star MumsAbout Rock Star Mums. Rock Star Mums is a blog that strives to bring hope, purpose, and strength to single mothers in their battles to raise smart, happy, healthy children. Becca, founder and writer of Rock Star Mums, is a mother, motivator, and educator of two young children in California. Read A Letter from Becca.

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