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Mom Seeks Parenting Skills


I have been a divorced, single mother for three years, and I am concerned that I lack the necessary skills to effectively parent my two girls, ages 11 and 6. I was adopted and raised by my mother and brother. My mom was unavailable to me; she worked and kept her distance emotionally. My older brother was my adult figure, and I was exposed to adult situations when I was far too young. I essentially raised myself and spent a good deal of time with my peers.  

Up until now, I thought I was doing an adequate job of parenting my girls. But I am stressed out daily and resort to yelling to be heard. I can ask my girls to do something, and they won’t comply unless I yell. In essence, I have relinquished my role as the authority to them. They are the bosses in the family.  

I would like to regain their respect, and I need some concrete tips on how to communicate with them. I feel that if I can reestablish myself as the parent in my older daughter’s eyes, the younger one will follow suit. 

I am fearful that my daughters will travel down the same path that I did. Their father is a good provider, but he is not involved in their lives and lacks parenting skills. I do not want them to make the same mistakes that I did by hanging out with the wrong crowd on the streets and picking men who make poor husbands.



This information is included in our Guide to Parenting for Today's Family. Click here to see the rest of the guide.

One of the most basic skills we encourage parents to focus on is the skill of following instructions. You need to teach your children this skill. First, explain the skill to them so that you are all on the same page regarding what you will be expecting in the future. Convey that you agree that yelling is not acceptable, and that part of the solution for this pattern of behavior on your part is the development of the skill on their part.  

Break the skill down into steps. Say “When you are asked to do something, you should …”

  1. Look at the person so he or she knows you’re paying attention.
  2. Say “OK” so they know you understand.
  3. Do the task right away.
  4. Check back to let the person know you have completed the task.

This is a new expectation. Your girls will need practice and consistency, so follow the above steps each time you ask them to do something. Tell them that each time they do not follow instructions, there will be a consequence such as an additional chore or the removal of a privilege. When they do follow instructions, they will receive a positive consequence.  

If the instructions are not followed the first time you ask, issue a negative consequence, reteach the skill, practice it and then ask them to follow the original instruction once again. By following this pattern, you decrease your frustration and thus, your tendency to yell.

Children like visuals. It is helpful to make a chore chart of each of your daughters’ daily expectations. That way there is no room for misunderstanding or “forgetting” on their part. They know exactly what they must do to retain privileges such as cell phones, computer games, etc.

As parents we are teachers. We teach our children the skills that they need to lead happy, productive lives. We also teach them what healthy relationships are.  Healthy relationships involve time spent together bonding.  

Schedule a family night once a week that is NOT OPTIONAL. Take turns planning activities. This could be a game night, bike ride, picnic in the park, doing make-overs, etc. The activity should allow for conversation and be something that all family members can do.

Boys Town offers Common Sense Parenting classes that you might find helpful.  You can also learn more about the book “Common Sense Parenting” at our website If you ever need to talk, many states have family help lines to assist parents with parenting concerns. You can also call the Boys Town hotline at 800-448-3000 24/7 to talk to a counselor ​for support.