Top 10 Good Parenting Resolutions for the New Year
This year has come and gone with a lot of memories with our families. With the year coming to an end, what are your new year’s resolutions for parenting? Here are the top 10 resolutions I have come up with based on a year’s worth of working with parents to make parenting easier.
1. Keep Emotions in Check
Being emotionally stable for your children is more effective for good parenting than thinking up all the strategies in the world to discipline them. Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, being emotionally stable gives your children an example to follow. If you are usually high-strung and moody, your children will only know to react to life the same way when they come across obstacles. So, this New Year can be your year to adopt a new attitude of calm and control as your good parenting resolution. Your kids will learn to emulate your demeanor when they face resistance. One trick to achieve this is tried and true. Breathe. Yes, it’s that simple. Mindful, slow, deep breathing for just one minute can lower your heart rate and help you use the frontal cortex (logic) part of your brain rather than the amygdala, or “caveman’s brain.”
2. End the Parent Shaming
In this last year, I have heard and read more about parent shaming than ever before. It is very common to compare ourselves and our parenting styles against our peers, gauging our level of competence by judging how others parent. However, if judging others has become the norm and your opinions of other moms and dads are consistently negative and judgmental, then perhaps you would benefit from a more tolerant attitude toward others. A wise woman once told me “For every finger, you point at others there are three more pointing back at you.” True enough, when I literally point my finger, I do have three more pointing back at me. Upon reflection, I realized her sage advice wasn’t only literal. The more I judged others, the more harshly I was judging myself. When I released others from harsh judgment, I, too, was released from harsh judgment. How to start? Put a rubber band on your wrist. Every time you find yourself judging another mom, snap the rubber band. At the end of the day, you might have a sore wrist, but you’ll also have an awareness of how much you judge others and, conversely, yourself. It will be the beginning of letting go of parent shaming and adopting compassion for others and yourself.
3. Reduce “No” and “Don’t” From Your Vocabulary
Did you know that an average toddler hears the word “no” up to 400 times a day? That’s absurd if you think about it, but it could be one of the reasons our children seem to be immune to the word “no” and “don’t.” It doesn’t even faze them anymore. You can yell “no” at rapid rates does not get your child to stop yanking at the cat’s tail. Overuse, especially without follow-up, causes these simple words to lose their meanings. But what’s a better word than “no” or “don’t?” Well, there may not be a better word for these two, but you can reduce their use by engaging with your children. For example, when your toddler is yanking on the cat’s tail you can say “No. We don’t hurt kitty.” and then follow it up with a positive instruction “Can you show Mommy how to pet the kitty nicely?” You may have to model the behavior you want then ask your tot to model it. In this way, you are using the negative word “no” effectively without overuse while modeling the appropriate behavior for your growing child. This practice takes a little more effort, but the payoff is well worth it!
4. Listen. Really Listen
Children want to be heard. Often, when they act up or have a hard time, they just need a pair of ears and eyes to listen to them. With our hectic schedules as parents, TV-on, smartphones buzzing and laptops dinging, this simple act has become increasingly difficult for today’s parents. And it has been shown over and over again that multitasking is not productive. We only have 100% attention. When we try to answer a text while listening to the TV and hear how your child’s day at school was, nothing is getting your full attention. I know we all know this but how in the world can we make a change? Life is getting more stressful, not less! One simple change I made last year was life-changing. I turned off ALL notifications on my smartphone save for the… wait for it… PHONE. Yes, I made my smartphone dumb. Now the only notification I hear is if I have a phone call or if I set the alarm. Now when I want to know if I’ve gotten a text, I walk to my phone and check it. My family and close friends are all aware that the very best way to get in touch with me is to phone me. I now check my texts and emails when it is convenient for me. I am more productive at work and when my children are telling me a story about, well, whatever, I am not distracted by buzzes or dings. If I hear the phone, they hear it too, and I say “I’ll see who that is later. Go ahead.” And we both know that I am REALLY listening.
5. Commit to More One-on-One Time with Each Family Member
For families with multiple children, it is a good parenting activity to have one-on-one time with each member to build special memories. The bonding time will initiate conversations with your children early on so that they can learn to trust you with the obstacles they go through as they grow up. Be intentional this new year about investing valuable time into your children to build an everlasting relationship with them. Some of you may be thinking “Great; this is not in the budget this year.” That’s okay. One-on-one time does not mean going shopping or spending any money at all! You can do what I’m resolving to do this year: Make a list of the big chores that need to be taken care of this year (clean out that closet or junk drawer, detail the family van, collect donations from drawers, etc.). Pick a day and time to get the task done (I recently switched to Google Calendar, and it’s a lifesaver). If your children are online, “invite” them to the event via your calendar app and make that date. Now you have a great opportunity to spend time with your child. It absolutely will make the chore more fun and will teach your child valuable lessons about how to care and maintain the things we have. Oh, and yes, your child is not going to be excited about this. Ignore the “white noise” they make before the chore. Put on some fun music and get to work. Before you know it, you’ll both be having fun!
6. Make Time for Self-Care
Being a parent is not easy – it is in your best interest to make time for yourself regularly. That way, you will feel refreshed and invigorated to take on another day to give your children the best version of yourself. We’ve all heard the saying “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” How true this is! Mothers are less likely to take care of themselves than dads. Make 2018 the year you buck that trend! The best part of this is that you can do whatever you want! I have decided to take Fifteen minutes every day to relax. Maybe I’ll read, perhaps I’ll sit on my deck and watch the birds and squirrels, maybe I’ll close my eyes between clients. Whatever I do, I resolve to take fifteen minutes for myself every day this year. What will you do to take care of yourself? Regular exercise? Healthy meals? An episode of your favorite Netflix shows a week?
7. Read to Your Kids
I was recently in a class about the importance of reading. As a former elementary school teacher, I know how essential it is for children to have a lot of exposure to all forms of reading. The instructor had just talked about parents reading at least 20 minutes a day to children, and I had a flashback to how hard it was to fit that in as a single mom. After a very long day and all, I wanted to do was rest, reading aloud to my children at 7:30 with a sink full of dishes was just too much. So, I offered my suggestion; “If you’re just too exhausted, a ‘mother’s helper’ can read to your children while you take care of your chores.” Wow. The room sure got quiet. The instructor (as politely as possible) disagreed. And I realized my faulty thinking. No. Don’t hire someone to read to my kids so I can do the dishes, hire a mother’s helper to do the dishes so I can read to my children. As a parent, I am the most influential person in my children’s lives. The dishes don’t care who washes them. The children (all ages) care who reads to them.
8. Create a Routine
Children and teens thrive on routines. It may seem like more work for you, but at the end of the day, a consistent routine will help your family navigate the day steadily. NOTE: I am not talking about a strict schedule with no room for flexibility. A routine allows each family member to have a sense of comfort and feel relaxed about what’s next. Children thrive when they know what to expect and what is expected of them. I have several routines, but there is one that is more important than all the rest… chores! My children know what I expect of them on Mondays, so if they want to go somewhere or do something on a Monday, they know what they need to do before they even ask!
The best way to thrive in good parenting skills is to practice reflection. The buzz word for that today is “mindfulness.” It does not take a lot of effort to practice this simple task. If prayer is something you want to use, morning is the perfect time to be quiet and allow our minds to reflect on the day ahead. It can often turn into a mental plan for the day and when children ask for something or want to go somewhere, the five minutes you spent in reflection will pay off because you’ll already have an idea of how you want the day to go. Also, taking a few minutes at night to reflect on your day can be useful. People that are successful in twelve-step recovery use this time to see where they might have made poor choices and need to make an amends, see what went well with their day, and things that make them feel grateful. Whether in prayer, meditation, or just some quiet thinking, reflection can help us be the best parents we can be.
10. Practice Gratitude
Lastly, allow gratitude into your life this year. Yes, our spouses are not perfect, our children can be a handful, and our careers weren’t what we always dreamt it up to be; but at the end of the day, in what areas of our lives can we give thanks? NOTE: This is not about ignoring challenges you have or minimizing your problems. No one has a perfect life. There is proof that the simple act of practicing gratitude is life-changing. The bonus challenge is to incorporate this into your family. The best way? At dinner time. Every family meal takes turns naming at least one thing everyone is grateful for. You will be surprised how enjoyable it is to focus on the positives in our lives. And, your attitude towards parenting may change just by becoming more thankful.
What are your good parenting resolutions for the New Year? If you need some help to make your particular list for this year, click HERE to fill out Discovery Form and book a call with Susan!