Have you made the usual New Year resolutions? You know the resolutions where you turn over a new leaf to get fit, steer away from junk food and start a savings plan?!? While you are reflecting on past bad habits and setting new goals for your personal life… now’s the time to consider taking stock of your parenting as well.
A little word of warning — you may feel a little inadequate as you look back on some of your past practices and habits. If you are like most parents (me included sometimes!) you nag your kids too much, over-react when they mess up and you probably feel guilt or regret for not spending enough time with them. Don’t be so hard on yourself! Not only is parenting the world’s hardest job, but children aren’t born with owner’s manuals so we often rely on trial and error (and input from others) often.
As you think about the next twelve months of parenthood, here are 15 New Year’s resolutions to consider. Avoid trying to adopt every idea. You can’t be everything to everybody while doing everything at the same time! Be realistic and choose one or two to add to your list of New Year’s resolutions. Then write it down where you will see it each day (hang it on the mirror, fridge or put it in the car so you can be reminded of the things that matter most to you this year!)
1. Be consistent with your discipline. This is a big task, as dealing with kids’ misbehavior tests the patience and resolve of the even the best parents. Set consistent limits and boundaries, even for adolescents, and be willing to negotiate and give a little sometimes. When children refuse to cooperate, or break the rules, act calmly and reasonably rather than resort to severe measures to teach them a lesson.
2. Avoid nagging, yelling and constantly reminding children to cooperate. Sometimes it is better to keep quiet than nag or remind children to do their chores, behave or just be reasonable human beings. It is no coincidence that parents who nag frequently complain of deaf children. There is usually nothing wrong with children’s hearing–they simply listen to what they want to!
3. Focus on children’s positive behaviors. If you find yourself continually pointing out your children’s misbehavior and getting nowhere then try to ignore the inappropriate as much as possible! Get into the habit of catching your kids being good. Like adults, children respond to positive comments more and are more likely to continue the behaviors that gain them attention. So focus on the good!
4. Encourage children consistently. It has been estimated that children hear 15 negative comments at home for every piece of praise or encouragement. Exposure to continuous criticism and negative comments can have disastrous effects on children’s self-esteem. If you are not naturally an encouraging person, try linking your positive comments to something you normally do such as saying good night to your children. Then you will know that you have encouraged them at least once each da– and any place, even once a day, is a good start!
5. Spend more time together as a family. In the era of working parents and busy children, finding time for everyone to be home together is increasingly difficult. (This is the biggest reason we offer Raising STRONG Boot Camps, we realize this and want to offer more opportunities to connect with our families!) Be specific with this goal or it will end up as just one more broken resolution. Aim to have at least one shared mealtime each week or spend one weekend a month devoted purely to family purposes. (I love this, can you say vacation anyone?!?)
6. Give yourself a regular break. Don’t be a slave to your family (Mama’s I am talking to you here, but this obviously applies to any stay-at-home parent as well!) Taking time out to do something just for yourself is a necessity, rather than a luxury. Revise your household routine, ask for the help of your partner or relatives, or employ a regular baby-sitter to provide you with some time-off.
7. Plan some time to be with your partner. Whether it is a romantic weekend away or just meeting for coffee together once a week, make sure you have an opportunity to spend time with your partner – and don’t talk about the kids!
8. Make guilt work for you. Let’s face it, parents can find plenty of issues to feel guilty about. (mom-guilt anyone? No it’s just me?) Leaving children in child-care, long hours spent at work, and even disciplining your kids are common sources of guilt. Avoid easing your guilt by being too lenient, spoiling or indulging children with toys or other material possessions. Guilt can be beneficial though; if it reminds you to take time off work to attend a child’s school play children or prompts you to hire some domestic help to create more family time.
9. Make a plan to survive those difficult times. Only families on TV are free of manic times of the day (unless they try to make it comical!) Mealtime mayhem, morning madness and bedtime battles are common in many families (mine included, for sure!). Identify your difficult times of the day and get super organized and be willing to make yourself scarce if children make unnecessary demands on you at these times.
10. Stay out of children’s fights. Brawling siblings disturb the peace so it is difficult for parents not to become involved. Chances are you either plead for peace and quiet, make a ruling to end the dispute, or take sides to lay blame on the child who caused the infraction. If you are tired of interfering in children’s battles then leave it up to them to resolve. When your children begin to bicker, ask them beat it to another part of the house, shut the door or boot them outside until they have finished. This is a necessary life-skill that will serve them well as they learn to resolve conflict together.
11. Control that television set. If the television is continually on in your house then it is time to establish some tight limits for viewing. Ten hours per week is a reasonable guideline for children of most ages. Have a television-free night and let children sample other forms of entertainment. (At our house our kids love movie night and it’s a fun night for all!)
12. Check your children’s computer usage. Computers (or tablets or phones) are rapidly replacing the television as the electronic baby-sitter in many families. To be fair, computers have more educational potential than the television but children predominantly use them for games, unless they receive assistance and direction from parents. Pull up a chair and join in rather than leave children to their own devices whenever they hit a computer, this will help them establish healthy habits and knowing what is going on in their online life helps you protect them and let’s them know you care!)
13. Avoid giving into temper tantrums. Do you give in when your toddler (or kid, God forbid) throws himself on his back in the supermarket and thrashes about like a crab? Do you throw your hands up in despair if your t(w)eenager stomps off to her bedroom slamming the door behind her when she doesn’t get her own way? Tantrums are a potent form of emotional blackmail designed to coerce parents to give in to children’s demands. Next time your child throws a major wobbly remove yourself and refuse to give in to such tactics. (and then stand your ground, you will be surprised by how quickly these issues resolve themselves!)
14. Avoid the goody parent syndrome. Good parents protect children from many of life’s difficulties and rob them of opportunities to develop independence and responsibility. They take forgotten lunches to school, pay fines for their children’s overdue library books and believe that chores are for parents rather than children. If this sounds familiar let children take more responsibility for their own actions in the coming year. (I have my kids do small chores around the house daily that help them in their lives (dishes/laundry/cleaning their room) they need to learn these life-skills for when they don’t live with you anymore, teach them to them young!
15. Keep misbehavior in perspective. You probably think at times that your children or t(w)eenagers are the world’s worst or that no one else acts up like them. Think again. If your child misbehaves the chances are that he or she is no trailblazer. Many others mess up too. That is little comfort, however, if you have to put up with difficult kids day in and day out. Regardless of how hard things become try to focus on their positive behaviors and work hard to maintain your relationship even if it appears that the effort is all one way. Your persistence will pay off in the long run.
You got this!!! Let’s make 2019 amazing as we all grow stronger together!!!