Losing weight, exercising more and eating less are worthy New Year’s resolutions. But for parents, what could be more worthy than checking in on how we parent and vowing to improve that? We’ve got three basic resolutions for moms and dads: Be more positive, more consistent and more patient. Learn how you can evaluate yourself and make changes for the better.
Promise to be positive.
Recognize good behavior and good attitude. This sounds so easy, but it takes a stronger resolution than quitting smoking or losing weight. Looking for good behavior in your children is not easy because many of us were not taught this by our parents. Many of us were conditioned as young children to pay attention to the negative. Turn this around. Look for things your children say and do correctly. Pay attention to correct behavior, not misbehavior. Reinforce polite requests, not whining, teasing, and tantrums. Reinforce calm discussions, not arguments and power struggles. Focus on the positive attitudes and behavior in your children.
Use plenty of encouragement, especially when you see that your children may be discouraged or frustrated. When you encourage your children, they will see that you have faith and confidence in them. Talk with your children on ways to be successful. Encouragement will help your children face situations with more confidence. Remember that children believe what you tell them, so call attention to positive qualities.
Use encouragement that aims at self-reward. "You made the right choice because you knew it was the correct thing to do. I hope you feel good about yourself." It is okay for children to behave to please their parents. It is better when they behave and to please themselves. Don't just do the right thing because someone is dangling a carrot in front of you. Do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. When you do the right thing -- when you make good decisions -- when you behave in a responsible manner -- you feel good. You learn to value yourself. We have drifted far away from this philosophy in our society. We need to remind our children of the true value of responsibility. If you can accomplish this lesson with your children, you will be giving them a precious gift that will be a treasure for their entire lifetime.
Promise to be consistent.
For most parents, being consistent is difficult. Consistency means follow through. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Consistency is the key to teaching self-discipline. Children learn to make correct decisions by being able to predict the consequences of their decisions. In order to learn how to make better choices about their behavior, children must be able to predict the consequences of their behavior. Children must see the cause-effect relationship between how they behave and what happens to them. In order for your children to predict the consequences of their behavior, they must be able to predict what you will do. "If I behave this way, what can I expect from my parents?" Your children must be able to predict how you will behave. Children must know what you expect from them and what they can expect from you. When children can predict how you respond or react, they make better choices. Children will learn this cause-effect relationship more quickly when you behave consistently.
You can significantly improve your relationship with your children by being more positive and more consistent. Tell your children that you expect good behavior from them. Then recognize them for doing well. Children do better when they have rules and structure. Expect your children to cooperate and share. Expect your children to listen and follow directions. Have rules for morning and evening routines. Have rules about chores and homework. Rules and expectations help you be more consistent and also help you focus on positive behaviors and attitudes in your children.
Treat misbehavior exactly the same way every time it occurs. If you tell yourself "It's not that big a problem," or "I'm too tired to deal with this now," you are only making it worse for yourself in the future. Will you be less tired in ten minutes? When misbehavior occurs, deal with it now. If you let it slide, you'll pay the price later. Children love to get away with misbehaviors. It is your job to see that they do not.
Promise to have patience.
Patience is the virtue that helps you to be more consistent and positive. Have patience for the time it takes to see change in yourself and your children. If your child is twelve years old, he has had twelve years to develop his behavior patterns. Give your child time to change. Parents want quick changes -- children do not. Children do not change misbehavior patterns easily. Misbehaviors that have been mastered take time to give up. Just because you decide to be more positive and more consistent, your child's misbehavior will not change overnight. You will have to be patient. This is where most parents fail. Technology has taught us impatience. We believe that because we are trying a new idea, changes should take place overnight. A few days is not long enough to test a new idea. Some methods take weeks to show improvement. Be patient.
Any New Year's resolution means change in our behavior or attitude. For many of us, change is a difficult process. It is often helpful to think about change in three parts. First, be aware of what you want to do differently. Realize that if you want different behavior from your children, then perhaps you could be doing something differently. Keep your focus on being positive, consistent, and patient. Next, make the commitment. Promise to do it. You are worth it and so are your children. Finally, practice. Practice means that you may not have mastered the change yet. You are still working on it. Do not expect perfection for yourself any more than you would your children
When you have a bad day, put it behind you. If you become a little negative, or if you have a lapse in consistency, or if you are short on patience, regain your balance. Being positive, consistent, and patient is not easy. If you slip back into old habits, do not criticize yourself. Start fresh tomorrow. Think of the New Year ahead and all the rewards that await you and your children in the future.
Happy New Year!
Updated August 2012