New Year's Resolutions for Better Parenting

By Laura Carlson

Want to gain new skills for the New Year? Why not put “better parenting skills” at the top of your resolution list? It turns out that the way parents interact with their kids has a strong impact on how they develop. This relationship can affect certain actions, cognitive functions, and social skills. By building “better” parenting techniques, you can positively influence your child’s behavior and self-esteem.

9 Steps to Better Parenting

Step 1 > Before you can move to “better,” you’ll need to know what makes for “good parenting.” Use this checklist for “good parenting” basics. Do you…

  • behave as a positive role model?
  • take an active role in your child’s life?
  • guide your child morally and spiritually?
  • set limits?
  • give consequences for bad behavior?
  • help your child make sound decisions using honest communication and respect?

Step 2 > Make a “better parenting” plan. Start with one or two basic parenting skills and take them to the next level.

  • For example, let’s choose “set limits.” Reexamine your go-to responses. Let’s say your child is having a tantrum and you yell at him. Where did that come from? Was it how your own parents dealt with “setting limits” when you were growing up? It’s difficult, but not impossible, to retrain yourself to establish limits for your kids and stay calm. Take your child to a safe place for the tantrum and stay nearby, but set your limit by “ignoring” him during his outburst. Your child will learn the consequences—there’s no reward (of attention) given for such behavior. After doing this each and every time he tantrums, he’ll grow tired of it and stop.
  • Another basic to choose may be to guide your child toward good decisions using honest communication: “Seek first to understand. Then to be understood.” This is the advice of Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This behavior sets a positive tone—an atmosphere of caring—that inclines your child to return listening, respectful behavior.

Step 3 > Practice “positive parenting” techniques. Write these methods (from the Boys & Girls Clubs of America) on a sticky note and post it on your mirror:

  • Describe what you would like.
  • Give a reason.
  • Practice.

By using these techniques consistently, you’ll begin to take a more active, productive role in your child’s life.

Step 4 > Pay attention to the way you speak to and talk to your kids. Screaming is becoming known as the new spanking. While some parents' first response is to yell, others have moments of weakness where they yell and find themselves veering off into unacceptable parent behavior territory because they've lost their cool. And more often than not, they don't realize the effect their outbursts have on their young ones--it can take a toll on kids' self-esteem. In fact, some experts say that yelling can be just as bad as physical punishment.

  • Learn effective ways to talk to your child in moments of frustration. For example, let’s say your toddler stomps on your newly planted flower garden. Instead of reverting to raising your voice, take a deep breath or count to 10, then calmly tell her that the flowers are not to be stepped upon. Even better, you can help her develop an appreciation for your plants by speaking with her about the positive effects flowers have on our environment (e.g. pollination, their ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and replace it with the oxygen we need to breathe, etc.)
  • Also, remember that very young children take things literally and do not have the capacity yet to see beyond what you are really trying to say. For instance, you may say to your child, "Stop being stupid." What you really mean is, "Stop being silly," but to a toddler, he will take it as you calling him dumb.

Step 5 > Keep learning. Being a parent is work, and it's the most important job you'll ever have. So why not pick up new skills, spruce of up your parental resume, if you will?

  • Pick up parenting books from your local bookstore, or search reputable parenting sites for advice and tips on everything, from how to deal with tantrums and discipline in an effective way to arts and crafts and nutritious recipes.

Step 6 > Be a good role model in your family. Good character is something you can model for your kids; it’s not something you just tell them to do. It’s not a singular moment in your life, but the sum of your actions. If you want a child of great character, then be a great adult. Kids will imitate what they see.

Step 7 > Show your children what a loving relationship looks like. It’s important for kids to witness loving, respectful parents. Not only will this set the tone for how they will deal with and maneuver in their future relationships, but living in an affectionate household allows them to feel safe in their environment.

  • Hold hands and say kind words to one another. Try to think of at least two positives to every negative you say—or want to say—to your partner.
  • Have a date night every week, even if it's a walk in the park or cuddling in bed after the children are asleep. Whatever activity you choose, discuss the things you love about one another. It helps to even bring up some of the fondest memories the two of you have shared over the years.

    Before you know it, you'll be laughing or crying tears of joy.

Step 8 > Don't argue in front of your child(ren). Children who live in households where the parents verbally assault one another are more likely to have self-esteem issues and/or are more likely to verbally attack others, including their future partner. While it's normal to have disagreements with your partner, disputes are better had out of ear-shot of children, and most certainly after you've both had time to calm down and reflect on each other’s' position. Effective communication requires a listening and understanding ear.

Step 9 > Enjoy you kids more. Many parents tend to overplan their kids’ days with activities ranging from Gymboree to playdates to lessons. Instead, cut back on trivial activities and create more intimate family moments. Your kids will be grown before you know it. Make memories with them now that will last a lifetime.

When you work on gaining better parenting skills, you move closer to an end-result of guiding your child toward positive behaviors. And what’s more…you’ll be a calmer, clearer you for the New Year!