2016 Parenting Resolutions
Being a parent is an ever-evolving role. One can always do better. Instead of looking around and making parenting a competition, though, I suggest looking within. Changing our own behavior may be a hard thing to do, but it’s well worth the effort and self-restraint. If you’re looking to add parenting-improvement goals to your list of New Year’s resolutions, here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Do NOT lie. We often try to save face or tell white lies when wanting to avoid unpleasant situations. Remember, kids are watching all the time, and they usually don’t know the difference between a “real” lie and one that is supposedly harmless. Either way, you don’t want to be the role model for fibbing. I remember growing up lying for my parents: they didn’t have an answering machine and would often ask me to say they weren’t home if they didn’t want to talk to whomever was calling. It was something so seemingly insignificant, but it stayed with me, and it taught me that lying was fine, that making excuses was acceptable, and that telling the truth was optional.
2. Do NOT argue in public. More than being embarrassed, kids feel resentful of their parents indulging in a public verbal fist fight. Don’t wash your laundry where everyone can see it. Arguments will happen, and there’s no way your children will escape seeing you assert your strong, differing opinions, but when you do argue, reassure your children that a disagreement today won’t lead to a divorce tomorrow.
3. Do NOT ask your kids to take sides. It’s easy. It’s tempting. It’s also one of the worst things a parent can do to a child psychologically. To put your child on the spot and make her choose between the two people she calls her world just isn’t fair. Yes, we all have favorites. Surely your child favors one parent over the other in various situations, but she loves both of you, and you know it. There is never a good reason to ask a child who she loves more or who she’d rather be. Keep the little one out of your narcissistic ego-ridden guilt trips.
4. Do NOT make your kids technophiles. If you hand kids the iPhone or iPad so you can have an uninterrupted adult conversation, you lose the right to complain about your kids demanding gadgets all the time. Seriously. If you want them to read, listen to music, enjoy the outdoors, or be by themselves, then you have to consciously provide them those opportunities. You have to learn to appreciate unplugging. Make eye contact when conversing with them. Be present in the here and now. Model the behavior you want, and, soon enough, you’ll see how meaningful your interactions become. Having dinner table conversations need not be the exception your family makes once a year for Thanksgiving.
5. Do NOT use absolutes. “You’ll never grow up!” “You always do this!” “You’ll never be able to learn anything!” “You always forget.” Sound familiar? Brings back memories? We’ve all been at the receiving end of these statements, and it’s never fun. One way to end this cycle is to refrain from brandishing your child as incorrigible. Focus on the issue at hand. Zone in on immediate consequences. Help your child learn, relearn, and move on.
6. Do NOT try to be perfect. This is, by far, the hardest thing for parents. The more you strive for perfection — an unattainable ideal — the more disappointed your kids will be to see you fail. The sooner you show them that you’re human, that you make mistakes, that you apologize, that you’re learning and growing just like them, the better it will be for their overall emotional health. Their self images and their relationships will not be governed by the false expectation that perfection is all that matters. Utopia is great, and teaching kids to strive for perfection is awesome, but they also need to see that sometimes good enough is just as well.
Damaging our kids is unavoidable. Our parents did it to us, despite their best intentions, and we will invariably pass some of the baggage on to the next generation. If we can lighten the load they carry even a little bit, though, it’s worth the effort.
Whatever parenting resolutions you decide upon for 2016, good luck keeping them! Know that I am right there by your side trying to be a better parent every day in 2016.
This post was written by the Cultural Misfit exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.
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