Parenting Corner: New Year, New Family, New You
Believe it or not, making a realistic and rewarding New Year’s Resolution is possible.
Some of us start the new year with fresh hopes for making sweeping changes, but anyone who has observed how fitness centers swell in January and drop off by March knows that intentions are not enough. When you consider your goals for 2020, think about what kind of resolutions you would like to make as a parent. Here are some ideas to get you going.
Look for times when you can be more present. When you are with your family, make a concerted effort to really live in the moment. Children do not need our undivided attention all of the time (hooray for independent play!), but they can tell when our minds are elsewhere. Putting away phones, giving focus to loved, and being playful all help families connect better.
When it comes to discipline, focus more on teaching than on punishment. While consequences enforce rules, children still need to learn how to live up to expectations. No one is born knowing how to share, wait turns, or manage frustration and anger any more than we are born knowing how to ride a bike. Experience, role modeling, and encouragement help us build on what we know and fill in the gaps of what we don’t.
Next time your child is struggling, observe him first, and, rather than focus on what toys/privileges can be taken away, ask yourself, “What does my child need?” Problem-solving together when everyone is calm and you are praising effort are ways to build on what they can do, moving them towards improvement.
If we can be more understanding of our children’s mistakes, we can be more tolerant of our own. Parents are often their own toughest critics. There is no such thing as perfect, so if you expect that of yourself, you will be disappointed and frustrated. If you had a rough day, take a deep breath and remind yourself tomorrow is a chance to try again.
Think about one way you could take care of yourself by reducing stress. Does that mean giving up something the whole family enjoys, but isn’t meaningful or helpful? Rather than eliminating something, add something. Is there an activity that reminds you of your pre-parent days, or something new you want to try?
It is difficult with the daily demands of working parents, but start with small, frequent bursts of something that will help “fill your cup.” Take that 15-minute run or keep a book in the car to read for a few minutes when waiting to pick up the kids after soccer practice. When the opportunity comes for larger breaks from the daily routine, take them without guilt.
Create a culture of appreciation in your family. Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gottman found in their research on couples that parents whose relationships thrived after the births of their children found ways to show appreciation, affection, and admiration for each other on a daily basis. These expressions were not necessarily grand gestures, but small, simple, and frequent ones, such as a quick hug or thank you. Children can also be encouraged to show their thanks towards family members and the community, so they may cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
Lisa Phillips, a licensed social worker and parent educator at The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital, is a contributor to the award-winning “Parenting Corner” column. She can be reached at 504.896.9591; chnola.org/parentingcenter.