Parenting Resolutions: Your 4-Step Plan to Calm, Positive Parenting


The new year gives us a chance  to pause and ask ourselves the big  questions:   “How am I doing? How can I improve?” If you’re a parent,  perhaps you  resolve to be a calmer one, a more consistent one, a stricter one,  a more  involved one. Maybe you’re thinking about the gap between the parent you  are  and the parent you want to be. Here are four steps for you to effect  positive  change in your family this year. Many of them are simple to put into  place, but  create change that will last for a lifetime.

When  you know how to stay separate from your child and not get into his box, you will  find yourself making fewer resolutions about staying calm, worrying less, and  keeping your cool, because those things will naturally occur.


Related:  Does your child push your buttons and make you  crazy?

Step one: Self-reflection. Self-reflection  is key to  all good relationships, including those with your kids. And the  beginning of a  new year is a great time to resolve to make any necessary  changes. Resolutions first  require some thoughtful self-reflection. Here are  some important New Year’s  questions to ask yourself which will help you reflect  and formulate your own  resolutions.

  • Do I lose it with my kids? Is my  losing it more  about my own sense of helplessness or lack of effectiveness,  tolerance or  patience?
  • What are my  temper “buttons” with my kids? What do  those triggers say about  me?
  • What can and can’t I expect of myself  as a parent? What  are—and aren’t—my responsibilities?
  • Do I do for my kids what they can  already do for  themselves? Am I over-functioning? (And is that why they are   under-functioning?)
  • How is my behavior contributing to any  problems that  I see in my kids? Is there anything I’m doing that might  contribute to their  misbehaving or their not listening?
  • Are there things that I nag or  criticize my child  for that I need to improve on myself?
  • Is being with me a good feeling or do  I spend most  of my time criticizing, correcting and being negative?
  • Would I like to have myself as a  parent? What would  be positive and what would be most difficult?
  • Do I carry enough compassion for  myself when I’m  parenting? If not, what can I do to develop more of that for  myself?

Step two: Calm is contagious. A common  resolution parents  make at New Year’s (and all through the year) is to yell  less and be less  reactive. Staying calm with your kids is one of the best  things you can do to  model behavior and build positive relationships. Remember,  anxiety is  contagious—and so is calm. Here are five tips to keep help you keep  your cool  this year so you can stick to your resolutions:

Related:  How to stay calm with you child—no matter what.

  • Realize what you have control  over. Recognize  you have control over your response to your  child’s actions, not over the  decisions he makes. Give yourself the time to  breathe, get the adrenaline down  so you can get the thinking part of your brain  engaged. Before you respond,  spend time thinking about the most effective way  to respond to your child’s  behavior. Make sure you’re calm when you speak to  him about his behavior, and  the consequences you might be giving  him.
  • Work on your triggers.Try to be  aware of some of your beliefs that trigger your anger with your  kids. Although  you will hold your kids accountable for inappropriate behavior,  also recognize  that much of their behavior is just kids being kids. Don’t be  mad at them for  going through their natural developmental stages. Young kids  have lots of  energy and often use it to get into everything in sight. This is  necessary and  healthy for kids, as aggravating as it is for us. Older kids  explore the  boundaries and take risks in order to individuate from their  parents—another  necessary step in their development, although it is scary,  worrisome and  aggravating for parents to witness.
  • Practice good self-care.Do what you  can to calm and soothe yourself. Get enough rest, take care  of your health,  work on your adult relationships, pursue your goals and  interests. The more you  care for yourself, the more resilience you will have  and the more your children  will not have to emotionally fulfill  you.
  • “Name that stressor!”Manage your  distress by acknowledging it and naming it. You can say  something like, “I’m  feeling annoyed right now. I’m going to take my own  timeout, breathe, and think  about how I want to address this problem.” By doing  this, you will be calming  yourself down and modeling for your children how to  better regulate themselves.
  • Look at the big picture.Remind  yourself that the most influence you will have with your children  is in  building a positive relationship with them. All of our interactions  create a  relationship over time. Think about how you want this relationship to  look in  five years, ten years, twenty years. In the moment, try asking  yourself, “What  can I do now, in this interaction, to hold my child accountable  and develop a  positive relationship?”

Related:How to be consistent and follow through on   consequences.

Step three: Sticking with the plan. You might  be saying to  yourself, “Okay, now that I have my resolutions, how can I keep  them all year  and make them a habit?” Here are three important things you can  do to make sure  they stick:

  • Make a commitment to  change. The only  way for you to follow through on a resolution  is to first decide that you will.  When you realize your decision to do  something differently has meaning,  importance or value to you, it gives you the  motivation and power to keep  going. Only then can it become the commitment and  priority that it needs to be.
  • Work on yourself.When you  make this commitment, you’ll also to recognize how important  working on  yourself—rather than on your kids—is to creating great and lasting   relationships with them. And of course remind yourself that your improvements   will be helping your kids grow to be self-reliant, caring adults.
  • Do whatever it takes.Put up  reminders on your bathroom mirror. Ask your mate to gently remind  you about  your commitments. Come up with a code word or signal. Do whatever it  takes to  keep your commitment to changing.

Step four: Positive Parenting: As you move  forward in 2013,  try these three positive parenting tips to help guide you and  to strengthen  your relationship with your child:

  • 2  positive interactions for every  negative comment. For every  reprimanded correction, criticism  you give your children, (a necessary part of  parenting), add two positive  interactions. They can come in the form of a hug,  a compliment, acknowledgement  of something well done, a smile, or having a fun  time together. Remember, the  brain remembers negatives very well, but has a  much harder time holding onto  the positives. That’s why you need to make a  conscious effort to include two  positives for every one negative.
  • Ask,  don’t tell.Make a conscious effort to ask, not tell, when your  child shares  something with you—particularly your teen. “It is so unfair that  the teacher  did not give us more time for the research paper.” Your response: “Is  there  something you want to do about that?” Versus: “You should speak to the teacher   about it.”
  • Be  separate from your  child. The best gift you can give your children is being a   parent who knows separateness. When you know how to stay separate and not get   into your child’s box, you will find yourself making  fewer resolutions about  staying calm, nagging, worrying less, and keeping your  cool, because those  things will naturally occur. When you are separate, you  will naturally allow  your child to own his life. They will be his disappointments, his frustrations, his mistakes, his struggles;  you  will acknowledge this without getting into his head or letting your worry  get  in his way. You will know these are problems for him to own, not for you to   own. It will be clear what belongs in your box and what does not. Look at it   this way: You have your own disappointments and struggles and goals to work   out. You can be there as your child’s guide and leader—not  the owner of  his life. The way to be truly  connected to your children is to be truly  separate from them.

Related:  Doing too much for your child?

Here are three different scenarios that show how you  can be a more separate  parent with your kids:

If your adult  child is still living at home and  sleeping until noon every day, instead of  thinking of him as a sloth and  telling him what he should do with his life,  stop having an opinion and get  interested and curious about his. Find out what  is making him tick or not tick.  At the same time, be honest with him. Let him  know what you expect of him while  living at home or whether you are still  willing to have him in your home six  months to a year from now. Sit down and  make a plan together.

If your child picks a fight with you every time he’s  about to do something  he does not want to do, don’t engage. This way he can  wrestle with himself and  his own discomfort, rather than get to deflect from  himself by wrestling with  you.

If your daughter is hysterical about whether or not  she will get the job she  desperately wants, stop jumping in with reassurances  or taking on her pain or  worry. Stand by her side rather than jumping in her  box. Tell her you  understand how crummy it feels to have to wait when you want  something so  badly. Be next to her  instead of on top of her.

Above all this year, always  resolve to ask yourself: “Who owns this  problem?” If you are the owner, work to  solve it. If you are not the owner,  stay out of your child’s way and give them  the space to own and figure out  their own problem. You can stand nearby in case  they would like your guidance,  but don’t stand on top of them. By doing this,  you will be giving yourself a  lot more time and space for your own life, which  is the best thing you can do  for both your child and yourself.

Wishing all parents and  families out there a happy and healthy new  year!


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