A Fresh Start: Parenting Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are often made to be broken, but when it comes to parenting, we can resolve to make a fresh start any day of the year. Thankfully, our children are with us day after day and we have lots of opportunity to move forward in a positive manner by the time they leave home…if they leave home. Parenting Power suggests the following as skills to be honed each day.

  1. Value Yourself. We want our children to be proud of themselves and where do they learn their positive or negative self-talk? From us of course. Respect what you do well and go easy on yourself when things don’t go as planned. Perfectionism is contagious. Value Yourself.
  2. Know the Values You Want to Teach. Take some time (between 3:00 and 5:00 am?) to think about and create a list of characteristics or values which are important to you and your family. Once you have determined these values, share them with your children in age-appropriate language. Values are not innate, but they will be learned. If we don’t teach our children values, who will? Get clear on your Values.
  3. Parents Unite. We are all busy, but we must make the time to check in with our spouse or co-caregiver. We need to know what behaviour is on the horizon and confirm how we will deal with upcoming situations. If we don’t our children will learn that no means yes or maybe depending on the parent. Parents Unite.
  4. Act don’t Yak (our daily mantra). What better way to show our children that we can be trusted – we mean what we say. So often when misbehaviour occurs, we are drawn into a lengthy interaction involving tears, screaming etc. that postpones the inevitable consequence. We can save ourselves a great deal of frustration (and our children a great deal of boredom) by moving directly to the consequence. Act don’t Yak!
  5. Watch Your Timing. When you are going to start a new routine or discipline strategy, set everyone up for success. Choose a time when things “normal”. Try to avoid times like Christmas, Spring Break, new school semester, your year-end, tax time or exam time.  
  6. Check the clock. Morning, late afternoon and evening may be the most stressful times of the day to change behaviors or discuss problems. Give everyone the best chance possible. Allow plenty of wake-up time in the morning, challenge low blood sugar with a snack mid-afternoon and keep bedtime peaceful and predictable.
  7. We’re all in this together. When you decide you need to change the way you are doing things, enlist your children to help you. They may have some great ideas and they will feel important to be asked. Problem-solving is a learned process so take the time to involve them whenever you can. They will start to see themselves as part of the solution and not only the problem. When we start putting ourselves and our children together as a team against the difficult situation, we stop putting ourselves against our children.
  8. Ask Questions. Instead of giving orders, “Get your coat! Grab your boots! Get in the van!”; ask questions, “What do you need to grab to stay warm? What do you need for your feet? Where do you need to be?” Giving orders invites rebellion; asking questions invites cooperation.
  9. Stick to it! Consistency helps your child to know what is expected. Do this for your children and yourself. Remember, your children are like little scientists. They are collecting data all the time. If you have picked up after them or said one thing and done another for 5 years running, they are going to need proof that you are making a change. Your children will compare your new behaviour to your old and test, test, test until there is more data supporting the new way. Things will get better!
  10. Give yourself a chance. We go to school to learn how to do just about everything in this world but somehow we try to parent our children by the seat of our pants. Sometimes the outcomes are fantastic but sometimes they look like we sat in something. If you have a question or need some new tools, take a class or get some coaching. At least ask a question and give yourself a chance.

From Julie Freedman Smith & Gail Bell, Parenting Power