Parenting New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year and welcome to 2015!  As usual, it’s time for us all to reflect on what we want to change in ourselves and set some resolutions to fix these things.  In our society, this becomes all about goals and often only solo-focused.  The problem with this solo goal-oriented mindset is twofold: (a) often the goal isn’t thought out so one has this vague goal to strive for and no real means to make it happen, and (b) we ignore the most important things we often need to work on – our relationships.

In that vein, I am recommending three New Year’s Resolutions for people as parents.  Although I’m sure there are a few individuals for whom none of these will be relevant (because they do it all the time), for most parents these are things they can and should work on regularly.

Resolution #1: Say “I’m Sorry” More

As parents, we often expect to hear apologies from our children, but rarely offer it to them (or if we do, it’s often in a totally inappropriate setting, like when we’re saying no to something they really can’t have).  We get angry, we yell, we get short-tempered.  We do all these things because we’re human and our children often have the capacity to bring us to the brink of our sanity thanks to minds that operate on different wavelengths.

However, when we act in ways that would prompt us to request apologies from our children if it were them behaving that way, we calm down, rationalize what we’ve done, and move on... Without talking to them about it.  I know part of it is how hard it is to admit mistakes to our kids and ourselves.  We so want to brush it under the rug, never to be spoken of, but our kids need to hear us apologize.  They need to know that any hurt they felt matters.  Not only that, hearing us apologize makes it much easier for them to understand the importance of apologies when it’s their turn to say "I'm sorry".

Resolution #2: Do Less for Your Kids

I know, I know, it sounds weird.  We’re supposed to do more for our kids, right?  Wrong.  Kids are often being raised with very little responsibility within the house and it’s a problem that can haunt them for years.  We want our kids to understand the value of hard work, but then remove all opportunity for them to learn it.  Sometimes it’s just easier to do the household chores ourselves or clean up the toys in the living room, but in the long run, this doesn’t help.

Take some time to realize where you’re compensating for your kids and then start handing the reigns over.  Thank them when they do a good job just as you would hope someone would thank you, but leave it to them.  Notably, don’t pick something you can’t live with; for example, if you know you’re going to want the living room clean, don’t turn it into a battleground where you don’t do it at all and then are miserable.  Pick their room to keep clean or even just putting away their laundry.  This way, if they don’t do it, they live with the consequences, not you.

Resolution #3: Stop Making Decisions Based on Fear

This is a hard one to overcome in a society that is so very fear-based, especially with respect to parenting; however, we aren’t doing anyone any favours by living forever in fear of what bad might happen and ignoring the good that will happen.  If your child asks to walk to a friend’s house alone, truly weight the pros and cons to it given what you know about your neighbourhood, your child, and their capacity to handle unexpected events.

If you find you’re thinking your child isn’t capable of much independence, then it’s time to work on those skills with them.  All kids need to have some freedom though and it’s up to us to make sure they get enough of it or learn how to handle their freedom safely.  It is not our job to make sure they live hidden away from the world or consistently sheltered by us.  If you find this hard, pick a small thing your child can do on his/her own, even just being alone in the house for five minutes while you take all the trash or recycling out, and practice things like locking the door and asking who’s there when it’s you coming back in.  These steps towards awareness of being safe can be instilled as young as the preschool years and will serve your kids well for years to come.

By Tracy Cassels

January 05, 2015