5 Resolutions That Will Make You a Better Parent This Year
By Dr. Laura Markham
new year’s resolution is to be more patient. But when I told my family, they
reminded me that I made the same resolution last year. I feel like a failure,
even though I know I’ve become a better mother over the past year.” —
Many people don’t make
New Years Resolutions, because they find themselves making the same resolutions
every year. But that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re headed in
the right direction, and you aren’t perfect yet. (Shocking, I know!)
The bad news is, you
won’t be perfect this year either. The good news is, you don’t have to be! Kids
don’t need perfection from parents. What they need is a parent who accepts them
with all their imperfections, models compassion and respect, and apologizes and
reconnects when things go wrong — as they inevitably do.
This is tough work,
because it’s about regulating our own emotions. That’s why resolving to be more
patient rarely works. By the time we’re gritting our teeth to stay
“patient” we’re already sliding into the stress response of fight,
flight or freeze.
But if you want to
become a more patient parent – and a happier person – it’s completely possible.
Here are 5 simple resolutions to support you in creating a home with less drama
and more love. Practicing these is the work of a lifetime, so you still won’t
be perfect in a year — in fact, you might make these same resolutions next
year! But I guarantee you’ll be a more peaceful parent, with a happier, more
1. Resolve to work on
regulating your own emotions, so you can be the emotionally generous parent you want to be.
Start by integrating daily sustainable self-nurturing into your life: Go to bed
earlier so you’re better rested, eat healthfully to maintain your energy,
transform those inner negative comments into encouraging ones, and slow down
your pace so you’re not so stressed.
Most important of all,
commit to managing your reactions. When you’re in fight or flight, your child
looks like the enemy and you can’t teach well. Just say No to taking any action
while you’re angry.
Does this sound hard?
It is. Maybe the hardest thing we ever do. But that urgency to act is a signal
that you’re in “fight or flight.” Calm your upset before you engage
with your child.
Every time you
restrain your own “tantrum” you’re rewiring your brain. Each time you
choose love, it makes the next choice easier. There’s no time like the present
to begin. And you’ll be astonished at how your child changes, as you get better
2. Resolve to love the
one you’re with. The one thing we
know for certain about child development is that kids who feel loved and
cherished thrive. That doesn’t mean kids who ARE loved – plenty of kids whose
parents love them don’t thrive. The kids who thrive are the ones who FEEL loved
and cherished for exactly who they are.
Every child is unique,
so it takes a different approach for each child to feel seen and valued.
The hard work for us as parents is accepting who our child is, challenges and
all – and cherishing him for being that person, even while guiding his
behavior. The secret? See it from his perspective, empathize with him, and
celebrate every step in the right direction. Maybe most important? Enjoy your
3. Resolve to stay
connected. Kids only
cooperate and “follow” our leadership when they feel connected. But
separation happens, so we have to repeatedly reconnect.
Remember that quality
time is about connection, not teaching, so it’s mostly unstructured. Hug your
child first thing every morning and when you say goodbye. When you’re reunited
later in the day, spend fifteen minutes solely focused on your child. (What do
you do in that 15 minutes? Listen, commiserate, hug, roughhouse, laugh, play,
empathize, listen some more. Not enough time? What could be more important?)
Stop working and turn
off your phone and computer before dinner so you can focus on your family. Eat
dinner together without screens and do a lot of listening. Have a chat and a
warm snuggle at bedtime every night with each child.
4. Resolve to role
model respect. Want to raise
kids who are considerate and respectful, right through the teen years? Take a
deep breath, and speak to them respectfully. After all, kids learn from what we
model. If we can’t manage our own emotions, we can’t expect our kids to learn
to manage theirs. Not always easy when you’re angry, so remember your mantras:
“It’s not an emergency.”
“I’m the role model.”
“He’s acting like a child because he IS a child.”
“Don’t take it personally.”
“This too shall pass!”
5. Resolve to address
the needs and feelings driving your child’s behavior. The most important time to stay
connected with your child is when she’s acting out. All “misbehavior”
is a red flag that your child needs your help to handle big emotions or fill
unmet needs. Once you address the feelings or needs, the behavior changes. If
you can lead by loving example, redirect preemptively rather than punish (“You
can throw the ball outside”), and set limits empathically (“I see how
mad and sad you are. No hitting; hitting hurts. Let’s use your words to tell
your sister how you feel. I’ll help…”) you’ll raise self-disciplined kids
who WANT to follow your guidance.
Sure, your child will
make mistakes, and so will you. There are no perfect parents, no perfect
children, and no perfect families. But there are families who live in the
embrace of great love, where everyone thrives. The only way to create that kind
of family is to make daily choices that take you in that direction. It’s not
magic, just the hard work of constant course correction to get back on track
when life inevitably throws you off.
So don’t worry if
you’re making the same resolutions every year. That just means you’re keeping
yourself on track by choosing, over and over, to take positive steps in the right
direction. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in a whole new landscape.
Parenting, after all, is a journey — not a destination. For today, just choose
less drama and more love. You’ll be amazed at how far that takes you.
And if keeping these
resolutions sounds like too big a lift, that just means you need more support.
This is some of the hardest work anyone ever does, and we all need help from
time to time.
Happily, if you’re
resolving to be the best parent you can be in 2019, I’ve got you covered.
Use my blog posts as your own complementary coaching library to help you feel better, be more patient and emotionally generous, connect more deeply with your child, and coach your child to be his or her best self. Remember, you can subscribe to get them right in your in box.
Don’t forget that the AhaParenting.com website has hundreds of articles about children of all ages.
Have you taken my self-paced Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids Online Course yet? I guarantee that you’ll create real change in your family. You still have time to register for the Course that begins in mid-January. This could be the best gift you give your family all year!
I’m honored to
accompany you on your parenting journey, and I look forward to supporting you
in making 2019 the best year yet for you and your family. May this year be
filled with countless moments that take your breath away.