Every January presents us with the opportunity for a fresh start, for doing things differently to make positive changes in our families' lives.
Here are 9 resolutions that helped me engage in more peaceful parenting with my children and that I hope help you to create more joyful connection with your children this year:
1 - Become Aware of Moments of Frustration
Feeling frustrated is a part of being human. When your child is not being cooperative or your children are engaging in sibling rivalry, it is easy to let your frustration flare up and control your next words or actions.
Take notice of a moment of frustration and focus on how it feels. Pause, but don't speak or act. Relax your entire body and allow the frustration to pass before moving forward. This is a challenging skill, so give yourself credit for each time you are able to pause and reflect before acting.
When were you able to pause during a moment of frustration today?
2 - See Your Child's Resistance as a Wake-Up Call
When your child resists your requests, you may need to examine how you make your requests and your level of connection. Children crave power and being heard and seen in the family. When they are frequently told what to do, even gently, they begin to resist.
Use your child's resistance as a "check in" on the relationship.
Have you been spending enough quality time with your child, in which you've been listening more than talking? Have you been allowing your child age-appropriate autonomy to make his or her own decisions?
3 - Become More Proactive Instead of Reactive
Setting rules and limits in advance is necessary for teaching children about boundaries, respect, and safety.
Rules and limits work best when established respectfully in advance, and engaging your child to help you in creative them motivates him or her to acknowledge them and follow through. Keeping limits and boundaries in place may require posting them for all to see and reviewing them frequently, but don't overdo it.
In what little way can your child give input to the rules of the family?
4 - Speak Respectfully of the Other Parent
We all hope our children will grow up to become people of integrity, and they're more likely to do so if we give them a model to learn from.
Whether you're separated, divorced, or just angry at your spouse, commit to always speaking respectfully about the other parent in the presence of your child. Your child relates to the other adult as his or her parent, regardless of the issue you may have with that adult.
How can you reframe your frustration with your child's other parent, for the sake of your child's heart?
5 - Make More Emotional Deposits Than Withdrawals
Think of your child as having an emotional bank account: Examples of deposits include encouraging words, acts of kindness, and demonstrations of love.
Strive to make more deposits than withdrawals. The result will be greater cooperation and less undesirable behavior.
What deposits have your made in your child's emotional bank account this week?
6 - See Your Child as Good, Not Bad
Children are not "bad." Instead, they may have learned behaviors that can be difficult to deal with. These behaviors can be coping skills or an attempt to meet needs.
A few changes in how you guide your child can make a lot of difference in his or her behavior. One of these changes is to be more patient, kind, and open to learning about how you and your child uniquely relate to one another.
Does your child's frustrating behavior seem to happen when he or she is waiting? What are some ideas to help your child?
7 - Find Ways to Acknowledge and Encourage Your Child
We're so good at noticing and confronting undesirable behavior, yet offering encouragement is far more powerful. Unfortunately, when our child is behaving as we like, we allow our attention to focus on other stressful things we have to do in our adult life.
Slow down and begin looking for opportunities to make positive observations to your child. Examples: "It looks like you are having a lot of fun playing with your sister!" or "Thank you for helping your brother build that block tower."
What is something that your child does well? When can you mention this to your child?
8 - Consider If Your Child's 'Misbehavior' is Attempting to Meet a Need
Challenging behavior may signal that your child needs more of your loving attention in the moment, especially if you've been busy doing your own work for a while.
Take a break from your tasks to spend time with your child, one-on-one if possible. This will help meet your child's needs for attention and connection that, when unmet, may be expressed in undesirable behavior.
When can you squeeze in a few minutes of one-one-one time with your child today?
9 - Give Your Child Notices of a Transition
Younger children live only in the moment and have great difficulty seeing beyond now. Because of this, they don't transition well without advance notices.
Visual timers and visual schedules are incredibly effective at helping children to transition, because they enable the child to see how much time is passing and the activities that are planned next. If you don't have a visual reminder handy in a given moment, a countdown of verbal reminders is helpful. Be mindful to not start a countdown and then become distracted yourself with talking to another adult or doing another activity.
A helpful, long-term approach is to narrate your own thought process, since kids learn from what we model. Examples: "Oh look at the time! We'd better start cleaning up." or "OK, we should be leaving in 5 minutes. That's time for two more trips down the slide."
What works best for you in giving your child an advance notice before ending playtime?