5 Resolutions That Will Make You a Better Parent in 2017
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 so 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. Maybe most important? Enjoy your child!
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.
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