The new year is just around the corner and many of us are contemplating a “New Year’s Resolution” for the coming year. As parents, we might consider what kind of resolution could help us become better parents. To help us decide on a good parenting resolution, I recommend a “2-week parenting audit” to help you think of possible resolutions around parenting. Don’t worry, it’s not hard or guilt inducing. It simply helps us identify areas in which we can grow. This “audit” consists of listening to yourself as you talk to your child and counting 3 things.
- Listen to yourself and count how many times you say “no” compared to how many times you say “Yes.” Don’t get me wrong. “No” is an important word for a parent. “No” sets limits for our children’s health and safety. But “no” can also interfere with our children’s creativity and appropriate exploration. Learn to say “yes” as often as you can. When possible, find a way to modify a “no” into a “yes”. Instead of “no, you can’t have a snack right now,” say “yes, after dinner you can. I don’t want you to ruin your appetite with one before dinner though.” Learning to say “yes” can help a parent think about the “true reason” for having the rule or limit. Knowing the “true reason” for a rule can also help a parent identify a “yes” alternative that still satisfies the rule. Children will learn the “spirit” of the rule or limit when a parent learns to effectively balance “no’s” with “yes’s.”
- Listen to yourself and count how many times your correct negative behavior compared to how many times you acknowledge positive behavior. It’s easy to find ourselves constantly correcting our children. Unfortunately, a constant focus on correction blinds us to the times our children engage in positive behaviors. Our children will also become discouraged believing they “never do anything right.” We need to make it a practice to look for the positive behaviors in which our children engage and to verbally acknowledge those behaviors. If we make this a daily habit, our children will surprise us with even more positive behaviors. We will also discover the “need” to correct negative behavior decreases as positive behaviors increase.
- Listen to yourself and count how many times you offer your child a directive compared to how many times you offer an opportunity to connect. Yes, a lot of tasks need to be completed around the house and our children often need prompts to help them remember to do their part. But when directives outweigh connection, you have a recipe for rebellion. Sometimes a directive can even be couched in an opportunity to connect. For example, “Please help me cook dinner tonight. We can talk while we cook.” Or “The living room is a mess. Help me clean it up so we have more time to do something fun together.”
After you have counted and looked at each of these comparisons, make your New Year’s Resolution. Do you need to say “yes” more often? Do you need to acknowledge positive behaviors more often? Do you want to speak words of connection more often? Or, if you’re like me, you may want to improve in all three areas. Each one will help build a more intimate relationship with your child while teaching them important life skills. I have to ask: which one will you work on next year?