Happy New Year to my fellow mommies and daddies out there!!!! As we look forward to the start of what will hopefully be a very prosperous, healthy, and happy new year, let’s talk about what that looks like in the life of being a parent.
In the years that I’ve been practicing, I can honestly say that I have never met a “bad” parent. TRULY. I’m sure they’re out there, but I have never met a parent that wakes up in the morning and specifically makes it a point to make their children’s lives miserable that day. Every parent that I’ve encountered wants to be the best parent they can be. Some have more resources than others, some find parenthood naturally easier for themselves than do others…. However, generally speaking, we all want to be the best version of ourselves for our children.
With this in mind, I wanted to make some suggestions on resolutions that we, as constantly evolving and improving human beings, can make with that aim. If one of these strikes your fancy (or any other parenting goal for the new year, for that matter), start small. Create small, but very objective and measurable goals to help you get started and then modify throughout the year as you find what works for you, your family, and your children. And be patient with yourself – changing our behavior is not easy, and it takes time.
So, without further ado, here are a few resolutions for you to consider for 2019 on your journey to becoming the best parent you can be:
- Put the phone down: Now this one is a tough one (for me, I mean). Our phones are literally our connection to the outside world, and often serve as an escape from the chaos and stress. It’s really hard to put the phone down and invest the emotional and physical energy into being excited over watching The Incredibles II for the 343rdtime (although, to be fair, it’s a good one if you’ve not seen it). Our kids (especially the younger ones) imitate what they see, and want NOTHING more than having a meaningful connection with their parents. If you want them to have that connection with you, consider making a resolution to be more present. To start small in this area, think about time-limits for yourself or consider resolving to play one family game/activity each evening. As you learn what works for you, you can increase your time off of the phone per night, increase time spent playing those games/activities, and/or find a way to keep the phone in your bag until the kiddos have gone to bed.
- Take a breath before responding to misbehavior: Perhaps you feel that it is more pressing for you to focus on how you manage challenging behaviors as they arise. You are most definitely not alone, and are in some VERY good company (myself, included).Although it is unbelievably hard to manage our own temper when our kids have tugged on the very last thread that was keeping our sanity allotted for that day together, I can tell you one thing. The situation will be EXACTLY the same if you chose to respond immediately, or if you take a few seconds to take a breath, get your own anger in check, and then respond. Have no fear, your child will still be exhibiting the same problematic behavior they were before you took time to calm yourself. Only now, you are more likely to be in a head-space to deal better with the behavior. This is particularly important because over 95% of our conversations end the EXACTsame way that they start. If you go into a situation screaming, you’ll likely come out on the other side screaming as well. However, if you go in more calmly, you’re also likely to leave in the same state. No one feels good about themselves after they have laid into their kids. Take the 30 seconds…
- Ask your child to teach you something: A lesser-known fact is that, when we are required to teach material to others, we tend to feel we have mastered it more so than when we simply discuss it. If you’d like to be more involved in your child’s education, consider asking them to teach you something that they were excited to learn about in school. The point of doing something like this is that you are communicating interest in what they do, you’re learning what they are most passionate about and why, and you start to peek into the window of how they best learn through the methods in which they choose to teach you. Not the least of the benefits, this increases your child’s sense of academic mastery and success. Maybe math isn’t their strong suit, but they excel in art and want to teach you how to do 3-D shading with graphite. The more they start to explore these interests, and know that you care about it, the more motivated they become to do better and learn more. This increases their confidence, which is especially important if you know that they are struggling in one or several areas in school. Start small with this – maybe it’s your Wednesday-night activity to have your child teach you their favorite thing from science, and they just start by talking about it. Eventually, this can grow to lessons that can turn into extracurricular activities that they do (either with or without you).
- Don’t try to fix everything:When our kids are young, our job is to prevent disaster for them. We grab them before they run out into the street, stop them from eating the glue (most of the time), and we do our best to make sure that they get a full night’s sleep, for all of our sakes. The older our kids get, the less we have control over their behavior. That’s scary for us parents… Here’s the thing – there isn’t much you can do about that. The older our kids get, the more influence that their friends have on their behavior and decisions than their families do. And most of us can attest to the fact that those situations in which we face the consequences of our own decisions are the ones that we often learn from the most. Consider thinking about taking less responsibility for the outcome of your child’s behavior and decisions, and take on the responsibility of helping them to make the decisions for themselves. Maybe your teenager doesn’t want to do their history homework tonight – we all can relate. Instead of arguing with them, consider asking them to talk through what would happen if they didn’t. Would it matter to them, and why or why not? You cannot physically force your teenager to do their homework (amongst other things). But you CAN talk with them, and help them explore the consequences of their choices. If you are communicating to your kids that even though your value or perspective is “X,” but that you want to know what theirs, you can start to learn where their values align and misalign with yours, and which of their values really aren’t fully developed yet. Now you have information you can use to help them decide for themselves what to do. NOW, LET THEM TEST IT OUT. I’m not suggesting you allow your teen to test out consequences of dangerous behavior. But the bottom line is, the more autonomous your teen feels, the more likely they are to commit, engage, and learn. Give them a chance to make their bed and lie in it – your job is to help them pick the sheets (and let them know you want to help them do so).
- Show them it’s okay to apologize: We all mess up. ALL of us. If you want to teach your child what to do when this inevitably happens, teach them to apologize by doing so yourself. Maybe you lost your patience, and you want them to know that you shouldn’t have yelled. Maybe you missed a game because an emergency came up at work, and you want them to know you would have rather seen them play. The bottom line is, we may be higher in the hierarchy, but that doesn’t mean we are infallible. Our kids know this, and they see us mess up. Most importantly, they watch what we do with those mistakes. Do you suppress them and pretend like they never happened? Do you issue an insincere acknowledgement of the incident, or suggest that they should get over it? Or do you acknowledge the impact that your behavior had on them (intended or not), and let them know that it’s regrettable to you? Do you show them you are aware of how they feel, even if there was nothing you could do about it, and that those feelings matter? Remember that the way you hand these situations with them is how they will handle similar situations with others. Consider resolving to start small by acknowledging that there are things you don’t know, or things that you’re not good at. Help your child learn that you are not perfect, and that this is okay.
There are so many others, but this hopefully gives you some things to consider on your journey to being the parent that you want to be. It sounds so obvious, but it’s true, that being a parent is unendingly difficult. Forgive yourself for you’re the areas that you are struggling, and work on making tomorrow better than today, for you and your kids.
Here’s to a happy and healthy family for you in 2019!