Each year we begin anew. We look at the 365 days ahead as a clean slate and fresh opportunity for improvement. Parenting is no exception. We make pacts with ourselves to do things such as: get more organized, finally go through all those toy boxes, downsize clothing closets, and to finish that scrap-booking project we started forever ago. Yeah! Yeah! We know. We’ve been there. But this year maybe we could do something a little different. Maybe for this year we can work on New Year’s parenting resolutions that are reasonable, responsible, and significant. Sometimes our goals are kind of ….well…. meaningless.
Here are some examples of New Year’s parenting resolutions that are doable, practical, and more importantly, meaningful.
- Listen: Specifically take a minimum of fifteen minutes out of your day to just listen to your child talk about whatever it is that concerns them. Most of us spend a lot more than fifteen minutes talking with our children, but I'm talking about the forum and the approach. How often do we allow our children to say what they think and feel without interruption? Give them the floor and tell them, for instance, "I want to know what you are thinking today and what is concerning you today. I won't interrupt you. I just want to listen. Your voice is important to me." Children need to be validated and their feelings are just as real as yours. They might sound silly to you sometimes, but it isn't silly to them.
- Breathe deep: Part of teaching is modeling, and children emulate us in so many ways. If we are feeling impatient with our children, or just a situation, take a deep breath and make a short vocalization about what you are doing. For instance, you might say, "I'm going to take a few deep breaths right now because I am feeling very upset about what just happened. Sometimes it makes me feel better and I don't like to feel angry."
- Remember to separate the deed from the person: We are not what we do. Children do bad things sometimes, but they are not their deeds. Never tell your child they are bad; you may tell them a certain behavior is unacceptable and why. For instance, "I'm very angry when you throw your clothes all over the floor. It makes me upset because I work hard to keep this house clean and it's not okay for you to do something that causes more work." It's not okay to tell them they are messy and you don't like messy people. It is okay to tell them you don't like it when they make a mess.
- Hug them and tell them you love them every single day: To some of us this may sound like a pointless request. Many hug their children on a daily basis and throw out the words, "I love you" as easily as they breathe. But have you noticed that as kids get older, the hugs get fewer and further in between? Regardless of how little time you have; regardless of what has happened in a day; regardless of how old they are or how angry you may have felt over certain 'behaviors' -let it go.
So that's it. That's my list of meaningful New Year's parenting resolutions. Don't worry if it is past January 1st....you can resolve to do new, productive, and meaningful things any day you choose.