If you are looking to improve your parenting, you are not alone. It’s one of those areas that anyone who is trying to parent continually works on, sometimes daily, even those of us with fancy academic degrees and lots of experience. What is beautiful about improving your parenting, is that your kids benefit, too.
As with any resolution, it is important to honestly examine where you could be doing better. What are areas you feel you need to improve? If we’re being honest… I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions in the ‘typical’ sense. My resolutions tend to be ‘Enjoy Life More’ or ‘Eat More Chocolate!’ So, maybe this blog should be called “4 Non-Resolutions to be a Better Parent in 2018.” Or maybe my first parenting resolution should be to make a resolution?
All kidding aside, I do try to create a list of goals for the year that I re-visit often. Once I have this list, I pick one goal – just one – to start with. I tend to go with something that is just out of reach, but highly achievable so I won’t fail… Some people have criticized me for not making “real” resolutions, but I find that success leads to success. If I can accomplish something almost “do-able” then I can accomplish something else.
This is true when you are working on your parenting skills, too. You might have a long list of things you want to work on and that’s ok. However, if you choose one that you are pretty sure you can do without a huge amount of change or effort on your part, you can be successful. Then you can move on to being successful at the next skill and the next skill. Maybe a more challenging skill won’t seem so hard after all of the “do-able” improvements are taking shape.
Here are 4 parenting resolutions, or non-resolutions, to get you started in 2018. These are areas that many parents express need improvement in their lives. I’ve included a few suggestions with each to help you be successful.
1. Connect With Your Child.
When you are with your child, be WITH your child. Give them your full attention. Listen, respond, engage. Give them the attention they long for. Put down your phone, don’t let email or Facebook interrupt your time. You don’t need to spend hours with your child every day (unless you can!). Even 10-15 minutes of quality time, focused completely on your child, will make a huge difference in your parenting over time by decreasing arguments and increasing your bond.
2. Let It Go.
Take time to think about the things that are most important to you and those that aren’t. Are you concerned with what others think about your parenting? Let it go. Please don’t compare yourself to anyone on social media. People tend to only post the perfect side of themselves, so you don’t see the sink full of dishes or the toys strewn all over the living room or the crying child on the floor kicking his feet in the air…
Are you concerned that your child doesn’t measure up to developmental achievements? Let it go. Children develop at their own pace… in ages and stages, not according to a set schedule. Kids tend to walk, talk, read and write when they are ready, not necessarily when the book says they should be. My mom once said, “she won’t be walking down the aisle with a pacifier in her mouth.” You can substitute any word you need for pacifier (i.e., diaper, training wheels, etc.).
Focus on the things that are most important such as connection, sleep, healthy food, and being a good person who is kind and cares about others.
3. Yell Less.
This can be a tough one when you are feeling overwhelmed and are at your wit’s end. And I haven’t met a parent yet who can claim he/she has never yelled at his/her child at least once.
Easier said than done. Remember the last resolution? Let it go. Think about what is important. It is nice to get out of the house and to school on time – especially if you’re concerned about what other parents think when you show up late. However, you, or your child, might be having an off day. It’s better to slow down and be a few minutes late than to constantly yell at your child. Yelling can cause lower self-esteem and behavioral issues in children.
Ground yourself. You’ve probably already heard that you should take deep breaths or count to 10 to stop yelling. Try focusing on your feet being on the floor while you do this. As you lower your stress-response, you will be able to respond better, in a calmer manner.
Please note – it’s still OK to yell if your child is in immediate danger. If you don’t yell often, this might scare your child. If you yell all the time, this might not phase your child. In case of danger, be ready to act, too, not just yell.
4. Take Care of the Care Taker.
I talk about this a lot. As parents, we are constantly taking care of others. Parents give so much of themselves, especially if they have young children, and are often exhausted as a result. Constantly taking care of others while forgetting to take care of yourself causes resentment and burnout.
Remember how I said that kids benefit from our working on our parenting skills? While all of these resolutions will benefit your child, taking care of yourself provides one of the biggest benefits to your children. When you take care of the basics (sleep, nutrition, and exercise) you feel better and can be a more effective parent. Things that might bother you when you are stressed out and overwhelmed are less of a big deal when you feel somewhat ‘human.’ When you take care of your emotional self (getting together with friends, doing meaningful things, being creative, spending time alone), you enjoy your life more and model being a happy person for your child.
You Can Do It!
Which one of these resolutions seems like it will be easiest for you to be successful?
Can you schedule 10-15 minutes of special time with your child this week and next?
OR Can you try to figure out what is most important and what are things you can let go – and then work on actually letting one of those things go this week? Does your child really need a bath and shampoo every day, or can they get by skipping one this week to spend special time with you?
OR Will you set up some kind of system to yell less over the course of the next 48 hours?
OR Can you schedule a date for yourself (with your spouse, a friend, or even with yourself!)? One moment that you write in your calendar, in pen, to take care of yourself…
Remember, mistakes happen. Mistakes are actually a great opportunity to model for our children that we are all human. We can pick ourselves up, learn something, and try again.
I know you can do this. Pick one resolution above and go for it! Here’s to your small successes leading to more success!