The 4 C’s of Parenting
Many single moms’ ministries across the country serve a diverse range of single mothers of all ages and backgrounds, including first-time mothers raising infants, mothers raising toddlers, teens, or even adult children. This necessitates some ingenuity on the part of the ministry leader. Pastors face the same challenge every Sunday as they prepare their sermons. They are speaking to singles, marrieds, young and old, students, retirees, and others. Nonetheless, the Holy Spirit divides a single message hundreds of times to minister to the needs of the people.
“How do I discuss effective parenting when I have a wide age range in the ministry?” you may wonder. Our recommendation is to do two things: #1) First, teach general parenting techniques that all parents, regardless of age, can use. #2) Second, teach to the entire group of single mothers, then divide into smaller groups based on the ages of their children to address age-related concerns. For example, you may have 20 single mothers in your group, three of whom are raising infants, eight of whom are raising toddlers, and so on. One way to address all of the needs is to invite a speaker to come in for 20 minutes to discuss establishing boundaries in parenting. Then, divide all toddler parents into smaller groups to discuss how that relates to toddlers, followed by teen parents, and so on.
The 4 C’s of Parenting (adapted from Kids and the Single Mom: A Real World Guide to Effective Parenting) are a broad topic that can be taught to all single mothers. The following are some parenting techniques that you can incorporate into your Single Moms Ministry lessons:
Communication – From the time children are formed in the womb until you part ways on your deathbed, communication is vital to a healthy relationship. Babies need to hear mom’s voice. Toddlers love the sound of a soothing bedtime song. And believe it or not, teens desire to have open communication with their parents (that sadly is often lost during those tumultuous years). Parenting well through all seasons means the door for communication stays open. We must understand that our children are desperate to hear what we think, even when they don’t always act like it. Have you created an age-appropriate line of communication for your children? Why or why not? How can you improve your current communication plan with your kids?
Consistency – A sometimes difficult thing to establish, particularly for single parents, is consistency. This challenge comes when parents have gone through a divorce and struggle to maintain fluidity when custody is shared. The same can be true if a child has an inconsistent parent who is in and out of the child’s life. First, I want to remind single parents that you cannot control what goes on in the other parent’s home. The only consistency you can provide is in your own home (barring unsafe behaviour in the other home). Control what you can. When thinking through consistency in your home, consider the following. Do I stand by my rules, or am I an easy pushover? Does my child know what to expect from me? Is there a routine in my home during the week? On weekends? Would my children say that they feel secure and safe in my home because they know what to expect?
Clarity – Because I said so! How many times have I screamed that at my children through the years? It was what I heard from my own parents as I grew up and behaviour that I duplicated as a parent, too, admittedly. I honestly felt that any question for clarity on a rule was a question of my authority by my children. Providing clarity on the why behind a rule in your home is not a weakness. Sometimes, children simply don’t understand what is being asked of them, and clarity provides the best communication. This is especially true among teens, as they are learning and developing their own boundaries. (Caution: Providing clarity is mutual respect. However, disrespectful behaviour by a teen or pre-teen who constantly expects you to justify your rules is NOT acceptable).
Christianity – Children duplicate behaviour they’ve seen. When mom is in the Word regularly, praying before mealtimes, reading Bible stories before bed as a family, and being cautious of what she says & does, children duplicate the behaviour. The best thing you can ever do for your child is to grow in your relationship with the Lord. The strength you find from Christ will be the catalyst to every parenting decision you make, the courage you need to stand firm against a mouthy teen, and the refreshing you’ll need when the days are long and hard. The single best parenting advice I could ever give to any mom, single or otherwise, is on honoring the God who gave you those children and learn to lean on Him in every situation.