The holidays are behind us and it is time to set our New Year's resolutions. We often think about losing weight, getting out of debt and working out more, to name a few. How about adding ways to parent better for 2011 to our resolution list? It is a perfect time to reflect on our parenting over the past year and think of how we can make it better. Here are a few ideas:
- Spend more quality time with your children. Carve out some time in your day to spend playing with them. In today's busy lives, we need to schedule this time on our calendars. Try to spend at least 15 minutes doing what your child wants to do. If he is having a hard time deciding or is very young, give him a choice of two things he likes to do. If you have several children, you may want to take turns giving them "Mommy time" so that only one child has "Mommy time" per day. Daddy can also have "Daddy time" with a different child from Mommy. Have your other child(ren) involved with something they like to do, like playing with Daddy or independent toys, or watching a DVD while you have your Mommy time.
- Give them choices. If we give our children choices, they feel that they have some control in a world where adults tell them what to do. These choices are ones where you are happy for them to choose either one. For example, "do you want peas tonight or broccoli?" or "do you want to brush your teeth first or put on your pajamas?"
- Catch them doing something good. Kids want our attention and will take negative if that is all they can get. So to avoid this, when they are doing something good, praise them. You can say "Mommy feels so happy when you share with your sister" or "Mommy feels so happy when you put your toys away when you are finished with them."
- Tell them "I notice." Try to tell your child something that you noticed about them each day. This is a good boost to their self esteem. Do not praise them for it, just tell them "you noticed." For example, you can say "I noticed you like to wear your new sneakers" or "I noticed you ate all your vegetables tonight."
- Get more sleep. This is important because when you have more sleep, you are better able to deal logically with them and less likely to get upset. This means putting the kids to bed earlier so you can get your chores done and can get yourself into bed. Try feeding them early, like 5 or 5:30 p.m. so you can get them to bed between 7 and 8 p.m.
- Take the time to explain things to your child. This helps them as you teach them how the world works and helps to strengthen the bond between you.
- Get organized. Plan for the next day the night before. Lay out the clothes, get the hats and mittens ready (you can put them in a Ziploc bag), pack the diaper bag and get the snacks ready the night before. This will allow a smooth transition out the door and will help you arrive on time.
Now that we have identified a few goals above, think about choosing one or two of them that you will try to integrate into your life. You can set a short-term and long-term goal, and write it down on paper. Writing it down will help you keep your focus and keep you accountable. You can also try to work on the same or similar parenting suggestions from above as your sister, friends, etc. and try to help each other remain focused on your short-term goals. Be easy on yourself, as it is hard to make changes. If you can focus on at least one of them, you will be making a positive change in your lives. Good luck!
(Editor's Note: The opinions in this article are those of Parent Sense, Inc. The opinions are not medical advice. Always consult your pediatrician about any changes you are contemplating.)