Family Travel, Parenting

Resolve To Prioritize

Taking stock of what’s really valuable to your family.

In exploring some resolutions, I have compiled one list of things to let go of and one about things that deserve more effort. What’s more important than the contents of these lists is reflection on whether you are identifying priorities for your child and family and not getting locked into doing things because others do.

let it go!

Homework. It’s the greatest stressor in families of school aged kids (and preschoolers, too). The real kicker is that homework has no great benefits for kids until middle school. Prior to this, the point of homework is to get kids ready to do homework. By the way, too much time spent on homework from pre-kindergarten through high school begins to have a negative impact on a child’s academic performance and emotional well-being. So set limits on how long children will be expected to spend on homework (and if they don’t get done, they must face the consequences at school).  Let go of the idea that your child’s homework and grades are a reflection on you.

Sports, music lessons, martial arts, etc. Yes, they’re great. But just like homework, too many extracurricular activities become a burden. Sports are particularly difficult to manage. What is sacrificed are family meals, informal hanging out time and relaxation.

Germs, hand sanitizer, and militant grooming. Children don’t need daily baths; clothing can be worn twice between washings (some exceptions apply); and it’s OK for kids to look a bit disheveled—especially if they are taking charge of their own dressing. Research has also shown that we have become too germ phobic and this may explain the uptick in allergies (and anxious children). Besides, scruffy kids are cute.


bring it on!

Sleep. When children spend too much time on homework and extracurricular activities, sleep is compromised. It may also be a good idea to reexamine whether the “family bed” is really working rather than just serving as a fallback plan when everyone is too stressed and tired to work on a sleep plan for the children.

Family meals at the table. They used to be standard. Today, not so much. There is research that demonstrates the benefits of family meals for reducing child behavior problems, drug use and other risk factors. Dinner is a consistent, daily opportunity to be present with each other. Ditch the sports teams, stay at home, eat together and go to bed early.

Authoritative parenting. Along with the increased attention on child development in the past decades, there has been a decrease in authoritative parenting in favor of a more democratic style—with lively debate at every turn. I believe children don’t really want too much responsibility for their own upbringing; it’s too stressful! Children are most secure when they feel taken care of. I’d like to see more parents asserting their authority. Children also need to know what things they can choose and what their parents will decide. Not everything is negotiable.

Mindfulness and acceptance. Try to be present and enjoy the process of parenting your scruffy, imperfect children.

Parents don’t have control over their child’s behavior, happiness or the course of their lives; but we are in control of the environment. There are many ways to be a good parent. But in order to be the sort of parent you want to be, it is essential to be thoughtful in the process, and think about what you can have less of, and want to have more of. Happy New Year!

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