5 Resolutions That Will Make You a Better Parent This Year

5 Resolutions That Will Make You a Better Parent

DrMarkhamThumbnailDr. Laura Markham
Founder of AhaParenting.com | Author

“Dr. Laura….My 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.” — Christina

If you make the same resolution every year, join the club. 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!)

GradeSchooler-Mom-Kiss-Beach-300The 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 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 cooperative child.

1. Resolve to work on regulating your own emotions, so you can be the happy, patient, encouraging 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 as stressed.

Most important of all, commit to managing your reactions.  When your emotions are “dysregulated,”  you’re in fight or flight, and your child looks like the enemy. So just say No to taking any action while you’re angry. Commit to calming your own upset before you engage with your child.

Does this sound hard? It is. Maybe the hardest thing we ever do. But that urgency to act is coming from your “fight or flight.” It makes your child look like the enemy. Taking action when you’re upset never leads to the results you want.

Every time you restrain your own “tantrum” you’re rewiring your brain. Each time your 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 in response, as you decrease your own drama.

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 that child to feel seen and loved. 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 his experience, and celebrate every step in the right direction.

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: You’re the role model, Don’t take it personally, It’s not an emergency, and This too shall pass!

5. Resolve to address the needs and feelings behind 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.  Parents who lead by loving example, redirect pre-emptively rather than punish (“You can throw the ball outside”), and set limits empathically (“I see how mad and sad you are. I won’t let you hit. Let’s use your words to tell your sister how you feel…”) raise self-disciplined kids who WANT to follow their 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.

This post was originally posted at AhaParenting.com on 1/3/16

About Dr. Laura Markham

DrMarkham180tallDr. Laura Markham is the founder of AhaParenting.com and author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How To Stop Yelling and Start Connecting and Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life. Dr. Laura says that earning her PhD in clinical psychology at Columbia University was just the beginning of her education as a psychologist. Becoming a mother convinced her that parents are doing the hardest job in the world, and need more support. She says her aspiration is to change the world, one child at a time — by supporting parents.

View all posts by Dr. Laura Markham here.

One Comment on “5 Resolutions That Will Make You a Better Parent This Year”

  1. A year is a long time. I make monthly resolutions and i can follow for a month it’s easy the start of each month i make a new resolution and it’s over the last day of the month and then i start a fresh one.

  2. Wow,what a wonderful read.Every parent should read this because we could all learn from this article.

  3. These are so true .I teach my daughter to have respect.I give examples when I see something happen in life so she can see.I try to spend as much time as possible with her.Some times it is so hard to get out what bothers her so I still interested and wait for the opportunity to work it out

    1. Thanks for the comment Rachael. I sounds like you are working very hard at being a GREAT parent. Teaching respect and humility is so important!

  4. I am terrible at keeping resolutions. It’s nice to know I am not the only one. This year my main resolution is to connect more with my teen. It’s easy to lose time with them at this age since they prefer to do their own thing. I don’t want her to head off to college and leave me sitting here wishing we had talked more.

    1. Desirae, that sounds like a GREAT resolution. Other parents say it all the time, but those little babies really do grow up so fast. Your job is to prepare her for the world though, and if you do that successfully, it usually means she’ll be gone one day, and you’ll miss having her around. Enjoy every moment!

  5. As a Mom to an 8 year old with Aspergers/OCD/ADHD……parenting is hard and trying and rewarding and awesome. Deep breath in deep breath out. You just keep plugging away and love them and try our best.

    1. So true, Diane. Just keep loving and keep doing your best! There are trying moments and certainly rewarding moments. I’m sure you’re a wonderful mother. Happy New Year!

  6. There is a lot i know already but its hard to put in motion at times. I feel like i am so busy with stuff to do or my own wants. These steps will help a lot. I am going to use them and do my best to put them to use with my Son.

    1. Natasha, we’re so glad you found this helpful. Thanks for the nice comment. And Happy New Year to you and your son!

  7. Parenting is the most hardest job you will ever have. I don’t know of any parent who has not made mistakes or felt like they did. All any parent can do is their best and hope for the best.

  8. Parenting is the most important job you will ever have. It is hard work and you are bound to make mistakes. But you should always try to do your best and learn from those mistakes.

  9. I believe that when you repeat the same resolutions or goals, it is because you are trying to do better each time. Sometimes when it doesn’t work out the way we see it, we have to change the ways in which we go about it. It is important we teach by example as well. Such as respect. Great article.

    1. Very well said, Debra. Thanks for the nice words! We are all just works in progress, right? And continuing to strive to do better is a good thing, right?!

    1. Wow, that’s great Pamela! Thanks for sharing it! So glad it was helpful.

  10. I love this article. We as humans are bound to make mistakes. This article actually opens up my eyes about what I can do to be a better parent.

    1. So true April! And we’re very pleased to hear that you found this article helpful. Thanks for the nice comment!

    1. You’re not alone, Danielle. Most of us could work on that. And it’s definitely a good idea to!

  11. I am terrible at handling stress. I need to work on that because it doesn’t help my kids when I’m always upset about all the chores that need to be done.

    1. You’re very right, Sarah. Managing stress is hard, but it’s totally understandable that you don’t want that stress rubbing off on your kids. It’s good that you’re working on it! Thanks for the comment

  12. Reading this post has really made me re-think how I feel about not reaching the pinnacle of parenting that i have been striving for. I find that by subconsciously striving towards my goals (which are very similar to some of the points mentioned) as opposed to writing the down and scrutinising them I feel more relaxed and under less pressure to achieve them. My youngest son has a learning and emotional development delay and he struggles both academically and emotionally to express himself. I used to constantly beat myself up over this thinking what did I do wrong?, what haven’t I been doing to bring him inline with the other kids his age? But I know that the answer is I have done nothing wrong, he is who is. He is a fighter, by which I mean he tries really hard without giving up (not goes round the playground terrorizing other kids!), he is immensely sensitive and has a wicked sense of humour. Would I change him? Not on your life! I totally love the one I’m with!

    1. Catherine, your comment is lovely. It sounds like you are a wonderful mother and that you are really in a good place emotionally parenting-wise right now. You’re right that your son is beautiful the way he is! If he was different, then he wouldn’t be the boy you know and love so dearly, and that is a terrible thought. We are so glad you found this post helpful. Happy New year to you and your family!

  13. I enjoyed reading this. I still tuck 3 of my children in at night. Two are teens and sometimes this is the only time we have to talk privately. We love our routine.

    It’s important to start each day happy. Never start your day in a bad mood or the rest of the day will follow and so will the household.

    1. That’s great, Brandy. You must really treasure those few private moments with each child. And you’re so right about starting each day off in a good mood. Very inspiring comment! Thank you!

    1. Of course it is Curtis! No one is perfect! As parents, it is especially hard to not beat ourselves up about our decisions or actions sometimes. But it’s always important to remember that we are not perfect and we’re never going to be perfect, and that’s ok! Happy New Year to you!

  14. I do need to regulate my emotions often during the days when my children are not behaving correctly. I use prayer and the go sit in a corner for a few minutes technique.

    1. Hey Crystal! It sounds like you’ve got something that really works for you. Sometimes it is just about taking a quiet moment to center yourself. We all know that being a parent can be an emotional roller coaster at times! Hope you and your family have a wonderful year!

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