The New Year is generally a time of resolutions and good intentions. Everyone wants to lose weight, quit smoking, or find a new job. We’re all trying to better ourselves, start fresh, have a clean slate in the coming year.
How about our relationships with our kids? Don’t they also deserve a fresh start in the New Year?
I think they do, so I spent some time today doing a little inventory on my parenting status. I’m pleased to say that I fared better this year than I did last year when I did this same exercise, which means I’m definitely moving in the right direction. However, there is definitely some room for improvement.
Here are some things I’m going to work on in the coming year. Maybe you can work on some of these, too, if any of them speak to you, and we can compare notes during New Year’s festivities next year.
- Patience, grasshopper. I am an impatient person. I grew up in Brooklyn. Things move fast in NYC. It’s okay to be impatient when you’re waiting on line for coffee. Not so okay when you’re waiting for your almost 4 year old to get her shoes on. Also, it’s okay to be impatient to yourself, and to maybe fidget around on that coffee line a little. It’s not okay to yell at the barista “HEY! SOME OF US HAVE JOBS TO GET TO HERE!” (True story. Not me, I swear. I was an innocent bystander.) In the same way, it is not okay to say to your almost 4 year old, “Oh my gosh, would you HURRY UP?!” I’ll be working on being as patient with my children as I am with my Starbucks.
- Get a job, ya bum! What kid wants responsibility? Not mine. The word “chore” makes them curl into a fetal position, squinch their eyes shut, block their ears and hum the Marine Hymn till I give up. And I do, every single time. I give up. But this is teaching them nothing (except that after growing up with my ex-Marine dad, I really don’t need to hear the Marine Hymn any more). All they're learning is that if they complain enough, mom will heave a heavy martyr-like sigh and pick the stupid dirty socks up her darn self. I’ve come up with great ideas for chores in the past, and have been too inconsistent with them for anything to actually stick. This year, I’m vowing to find something that works for our family and stick to it. No matter how many times they hum the Hymn.
- R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me. I’m not talking about my kids respecting me. I’m talking about me respecting them. I expect them to speak calmly and respectfully towards me, but I don’t always afford them the same courtesy. That hardly seems fair. There are certain phrases I throw around all the time, that I would be aghast to hear aimed in my direction from their little mouths. Things like “Shut up.” They’re not allowed to say that at all. I’ve told them “It is rude and disrespectful, and even if you’re fooling around when you say it, it sounds ugly.” Sounds like it’s time for ME to shut up and take some of my own advice to heart. And switching it to “BE QUIET,” which I try to do often, doesn’t help when you’re screaming it into the backseat of your car. I’m going to work on pretending I’m talking to my best friend, instead of my kids. If she wrote on the light green living room wall, I wouldn’t yell at her for it. I’d sure as heck make her clean it up, though. There can be respectful consequences. I’m going to make an effort to show more respect TO my children this coming year, with the end result being that I will no doubt see more respect FROM my children this coming year.
This is my comprehensive list of parenting resolutions. Take some time over the next couple days to think about some areas of your parenting that you might like to improve, and then figure out how to do it. There is no shortage of parenting websites and books to help you on your quest. Use my resolutions as a spring board if you like, or if you’re feeling really brave, ask your kids what’s one thing they’d change about you.
Most kids probably won’t tell you they want you to lose weight, or get a new job. It might help put your current resolutions into perspective.
The New Year is a chance to start fresh, to work on bettering ourselves. I can't think of a more worthwhile pursuit than trying to become a better parent.