I love, love, love New Year. The idea of a clean slate and positive steps into the future is superbly seductive. Making New Year’s resolutions for your family is always a great idea because it allows you to re-focus, re-evaluate and perfect your parenting. Obviously, come February most of us will be swigging Merlot out of the bottle and turning the baby monitor down, but in the spirit of new beginnings here are ten great parenting resolutions to consider. As they say, there’s certainly no harm in trying!
1. Work on one-on-one
It’s easy to think we are spending quality time with our children when in fact we are just inhabiting the same home. Of course, all families need time where the individuals co-exist while getting on with their own thing, but it’s vital to remember that children adore one-on-one time with their parents. Make ten minutes each day to sit down with your child or children: play a game, go for a walk, share a book, enjoy their favourite programme. Follow your child’s lead, or suggest an activity, but whatever you choose make sure you are fully in the moment. Turn off your phone and give them your full and undivided attention.
2. Revisit routines
Most family homes can feel like a war zone in the morning or before bed and this may mean that your routines could do with a tweak. Sit down together to implement new and improved methods. Could you make it out of the door on time if everyone got up 15 minutes earlier? Perhaps evenings would be less frenetic if everyone did their homework as soon as they got in, rather than leaving it until after tea? Find a schedule which works and make sure everyone in the family knows what’s happening and when.
3. Pick your battles
Some battles are worth winning, others are far less important. Make this the year when you learn where your parenting lines are drawn. In order to choose which battles to pick and when to let go, try segmenting your child’s behaviour into three categories, ‘good, bad and ugly’. While ‘bad’ stuff might be uncooperative behaviour, like refusing to put your shoes on, or tidying toys might be irritating, ‘Ugly’ behaviour has far-reaching consequences and it’s here where it’s vital to take a stand. This could be pushing someone in the playground or saying something mean. Releasing a seat-belt during a car journey would also be ‘ugly’ as it could lead to harm and is therefore worth the conflict.
4. Sort out the sleeping
If 2016 was your annus horribilis in terms of interrupted nights, resolve to get things back on track this year. Set up a good and restful bedtime routine involving calming baths, cosy stories, dim lighting and no technology. Always leave the bedroom before your child drops off, so they can learn to self soothe and don’t let them sleep in your bed. If things have gone really wrong and all this is already happening, make it your goal to deal with the issues. There are countless tips available online. You could also try reading The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep with your child. This book, by a Swedish behavioural psychologist and linguist, is supposedly so soporific it makes the reader doze off.
5. Share the load
Stop yourself feeling frazzled in 2017 by ensuring everyone shares the load. Look at the things which need doing on a daily basis and give each family member their fair share. Even tiny tots can manage simple but helpful tasks such as making their bed, tidying toys or setting the table. While lightening your load, individual chores also promote independence, respect and a sense of purpose in your children.
6. Role model respect
Want to raise children who are respectful? Make sure you role model that behaviour yourself. Conflicts inevitably arise in families, but make sure you always take a deep breath before you engage so that you always speak to or treat your partner or children with respect.
7. Bring on the boredom
Give your child the gift of boredom this year. Instead of feeling you need to fill their every waking moment with activities, let them sit around the house or slouch about the garden. This may be painful for a while, (oh God! The whingeing!) but is the way to encourage your child to utilise their natural creativity and imagination.
8. Capture the ‘Good Stuff’
It can be hard to focus on the positives, especial in uncertain times. To ensure your family remembers and feels thankful for all the great things in life, install a ‘Good Stuff’ jar. Find an empty jar with a lid and ask your kids to decorate the exterior with stickers or paints. Every time something good happens involving any member of the family this year, have your child write it on a piece of paper, fold it up and pop it in the jar. Keep doing this for twelve months and on New Year’s Eve, empty the jar and have an uplifting, fun session remembering everything great that’s occurred in 2017.
9. Negotiate less; explain more
Do less kid-wrangling this year. If you often find yourself being asked to negotiate or alter your requests (‘I’ll go to bed, if you let me have ten minutes more TV) remember that you are not equal partners at the bargaining table. You are the parent. Explain the thinking and reasoning behind your expectations and then hold fast.
10. Remember your partner
If you are co-parenting with a partner, don’t neglect them. Make time to spend together on a regular basis. The stronger you are as a couple, the more secure and happier your children will feel. If you are a single parent, try your best to foster good relationships with your ex and their family as again, this can only help your child or children.