Self-improvment New Year’s resolutions usually fade after Week 2 because they require us to do things we’re not used to. Most people aren’t wired that way. So I’m thinking it might be easier to stop doing something unhealthy rather than to start a whole new regime. So here’s my list of three common things parents should stop doing this year.
1. Yelling. Parenting is messy and stressful. With everything that’s expected of you it’s easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed. If yelling has become your go-to place, you need to stop. When you lash out at your kids, your spouse, or your dog, you are polluting your home and hurting your family. If you don’t have at least one stress-management tool in your toolkit (alcohol and tobacco do not count), you aren’t fully equipped for your parenting job so you’ll be less effective. I recommend breathing. It will help you learn the relaxation response. Breathing requires no gym membership or special shoes. It’s free and always available. Yes, it’s habit-forming, but in a very good way. Stop yelling and start breathing and your kids will give you less to yell about. Guaranteed.
2. Tuning out. Parents, teachers, coaches… adults in general are always telling kids what to do, how to act, and what to believe. When kids take the bold step of opening up to us (because they need to be heard), we often aren’t listening… not one hundred percent. And if we are listening, as soon as we hear something that indicates a “problem” we may well jump to invalidate it (“You don’t really feel that way.”) And yet, we want our kids to stand up for themselves amongst their peers – whether they’re being overpowered in the kindergarten playground or in a teen relationship. But how are they going to learn to be speak up if we don’t give them practice by respectfully listening to what they have to say? Stop tuning out and start listening with a more open heart and mind and your kids will feel more confident in themselves.
3. Rushing around. Every family needs down time, and hopefully you all got some during the holidays. But most of us need and deserve daily down time… together… as a family. If your kids are still young enough for story time, what a great chance to cuddle and reconnect each evening. If your children are past being read to you can still make it a nightly ritual to check in with them for a quiet talk about how the day went for each of you. (This is a great way to teach kids that conversations are a two-way street. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you’re always the one asking “How’s it going?”) And let’s not forget meal time. Maybe you’ve heard this before but the research findings are so amazing they’re worth repeating: Kids whose families sit down and eat dinner together at least three times a week get all kinds of benefits. Have dinner together and your kids are more likely to do better in school, less likely to use alcohol or illegal drugs, and less likely to be overweight. They’re even less likely to have friends who do drugs! Don’t you love it?
Happy New Year from my family to yours.