Confession: I’m not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions. I get the concept – “new year, new me!” and there are LOTS of things I want to work on and improve, but January doesn’t feel like the best time to do it. The cold, the darkness, the holiday hangover, the kids under foot …. none of this screams motivation and productivity to me.
But I also see the value of positive change so I’ve decided to start the new year by stopping; stopping the habits that sabotage my overall parenting goals, and stopping the behaviours I’m not proud of.
If we could devote all 24 hours of the day to motherhood, parenting would be a breeze. But you don’t need me to tell you this is not our reality so instead of adding more “to do’s” to my plate, I’m thinking about what I can get rid of, the behaviours I can unload in 2018 to make room for positive change.
Here are my top five:
1. Stop being inconsistent
Consistency is a tough one for me because my moods can be pretty up and down, especially this past year when life’s curve balls were coming at me fast and furious. I found myself saying yes to something one day and blowing my top at the same request a day or two later because mentally I was all over the map and not always focused on consistency and good decisions.
Being more consistent can mean sticking to rules my kids already know, because if you declare fruit to be the only acceptable bedtime snack but say yes to Oreos once, you’re done for. If you teach your kids that you’ll always say “no” to ambush sleepover requests, but let it go “just this once” you can bet the ambush tactic will continue because you’ve just showed your kids that it works.
2. Stop being too permissive
How many times do you say “yes” just because you’re too tired to face the argument that will result from “no?”
Being less permissive is about facing conflict head on, even if I’m in no mood to deal with it. It’s about not avoiding the meltdown by taking the easy way out, and sticking to the rules we’ve put in place for good reason. It’s about not giving in to pester power even though it would be so much easier just to buy the damn toy.
If you want to say no, say no. The benefit of saying “yes” will be short-term only and not worth compromising on your well-established rules. Explain why it’s a “no” but don’t give in.
3. Stop Asking “How was your day?”
This year I’m going to make a conscious effort to avoid using “how was your day?” as my go-to question after school. If I truly want to know what went on and what my kids are doing and feeling, I need to up my game and make it impossible for them to brush me off with a simple “fine.” Instead, I’ll ask them“Who did you play with at recess?”, or “What was the best thing that happened today?”, or “What’s the funniest thing your teacher said this week?”
I’ve been meaning to create a question jar for months and January might be when it finally happens.
4. Stop protecting my kids from failure
Both my daughters are adopted and even though I know better, I still try to protect them from all of life’s trauma and disappointments using the rationale that they’ve experienced enough of both in their young lives. In my perfect world, every negative situation would resolve itself with the efficiency of an ABC After School Special, and every conflict would be instructive and character-building and end in hugs and fresh-baked cookies.
You want to go out for the basketball team even though you’re the smallest kid in your school? That’s interesting… have you thought about the chess club?
If this sounds familiar, remember that failure teaches us so much, including resilience. We can’t deny our kids the opportunity to experience conflict and disappointment (no matter how much it hurts at the time) because problem-solving and overcoming adversity are pretty important life skills. In 2018 I’m going to try being a safety net instead of an airbag.
5. Stop setting a poor example
Drink more water. Get off my phone. Be more patient. Don’t swear. Eat vegetables. Wear a hat in winter. There is no shortage of ways I can set a better example for my kids and this is on my mind because in 2017 they showed me they were listening and watching more than I ever thought possible.
At nearly eight and eleven they’re no longer oblivious to subtleties. They can interpret tone and body language and they understand sarcasm. If I honk at the car in front of me 0.07 seconds after the light turns green, they see me being rude and impatient. If I roll my eyes at the drive thru window when I have to repeat my order three times, they think it’s okay to talk down to the people inside.
Because I have no intention (or ability) to model perfection, this resolution is not about becoming a perfect person or a perfect parent. It’s about simply being mindful of the messages I’m sending.