Happy New Year to all my readers. Here’s wishing you all the very best for you and your family in 2013. With the ringing in of the New Year often comes resolutions, hopes, and promises – those we make to ourselves and our children.

Yesterday, I received a question from a mother in my practice who asked, ‘What should my resolutions be on how to be a better parent to my child? I’m sure you must have a bunch, so maybe just start me out with 5 or 10.’

To which I replied, ‘Really? 5 or 10? How about just 3!’. Let’s be honest, nobody’s going to stick to 5 or 10. And to be truthful you really don’t need to.  Here are my top 3 new years resolutions for parents.  Choosing these three were easy. Why?  Because they are the most crucial to your child’s emotional wellbeing, and yet are also the most frequently forgotten in the chaos of daily life! If you can follow these 3 tips (well, most of the time!) you and your child will be well on the road to a happy, healthy, and balanced household!

  • Strive to be a ‘good’ parent, not a ‘perfect’ parent. There are many ‘shoulds’, and ‘should nots’ these days, especially when it pertains to parenting. There are as many rules in regards to how to parent as there are websites devoted to them. What we need to remember is that we are human (there is no such thing as a super-mom!). Do what you think is best for your child, but don’t beat yourself up if you let your child watch that one extra hour of TV, or if you fail to check their homework every night. It just doesn’t matter! The point is that if you care, (and you are reading this article so I know you do), you are a good parent! When you care, that is communicated to your children by your intention rather than by the end result itself, and that is what’s most important.
  • Know when to check your emotions at the door. We all have our own limits when it comes to tolerating frustration, stress and anxiety. We are human (see point #1). But we have to be careful that our own emotions do not get in the way of parenting in a calm, rational, and balanced way. When we react to our children in a highly emotional way (whether it be yelling, using hurtful words, or slamming a door), our children receive a very mixed message. Essentially they are being told ‘stop whining/crying/having a tantrum, etc.’  but at the same time observe Mommy whining, yelling, and having a tantrum. (Huh?) In fact, we know from years of research that children model their behavior after our own. We need to be very careful about allowing our frustration to get the best of us, as it can interfere with our ability to teach our children to regulate themselves appropriately. So, to help calm the Mommy nerves that we ALL have from time to time, try to come up with two or three ways to deescalate yourself when you have had it up to here! Write the list of three down, and paste it on your fridge for quick reference. It can include things like taking your own time out in your bedroom, listening to your favorite song (you might only have 2 free minutes anyways!), or making yourself a cup of tea. Try to use these 3 tips whenever you feel hot under the collar. You are doing yourself a big favor, but are also helping your child learn to regulate his negative emotions, which is a crucial life skill.
  • Try to preserve ‘special time’ with your child. Again, the word here is ‘try’, and there is no ‘should’ in terms of when and how much. Every family is different. But even if you have only 20 minutes per week to devote  to individual (and uninterrupted) time to your child, schedule special time and put it on the calendar. Children need to know that their parents predictably and consistently are available to them, even if only for a short amount of time each week. Special time also provides children with a feeling of control (they get to choose the activity, you follow), and it helps to build feelings of trust, emotional security, and promotes positive interactions between parent and child. When you have special time, try as best you can to avoid judgments and criticisms, and play in whatever fashion your child chooses (even if they aren’t playing by the ‘rules’)! As long as they are not engaging in aggressive or disruptive behavior, their special time is their time.  Setting one-on-one time aside for you and your child together is one of the most powerful strategies known to improve children’s self-esteem, self-confidence, and  emotional well-being. Now that’s pretty special!

Have more ideas to share with fellow parents? Please let us know by commenting below…

As always, thanks for sharing this article with friends!

Dr. Deb