New Year, New You

The principles of change

Shift Your Parenting Mindset this New Year's

Two beliefs that reap big rewards for your kids

When it comes to New Year's resolutions, most of us think about making changes to improve our own lives, like losing weight, getting fit or managing stress. But wait a minute! What about resolutions that improve the lives of our children?

Most everyone wants to be a better parent. While there are endless ways to improve parenting skills, subtle shifts in awareness and attitude can make substantial contributions to children's development. Research shows that two parenting mindsets produce actions that reap long-term rewards for kids.

Mindset #1:  I Am a Positive Role Model

Parents influence their children in profound ways by how they live their lives and do the "right" things, even when no one else is looking. Kids learn how to solve problems and critically think about the world around them, in part, by observing their parents. The article, "The Importance of Parents as Role Models," points to the significance of having this powerful mindset and how parenting strategies help children develop respect and tolerance for others. Parents become positive role models when they:

  • Stop the blame game and help kids do the same! When you are about to blame someone else for a problem, stop! Think about your own role in the problem, show empathy for others, and focus on the solution rather than culpability.
  • Take politics out of parenting. Many of our political conversations have become divisive and unproductive. When adults make derogatory comments about others based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual preference, gender, or political views, children think it is okay to do the same.
  • Manage your anger. Anger is one of the greatest blocks to forming meaningful human relationships. When adults act impulsively, yell at one another, and seek revenge, children follow suit. This kind of behavior can lead to bullying, acting out in school, and not developing the skill of self-regulation, the ability to stop or delay an action rather than behaving impulsively.
  • Work hard to accomplish your goals. When adults set goals and persevere to achieve them despite obstacles, they model invaluable skills to their children. As appropriate for your child's age, don't be afraid to show kids how you are working to overcome challenges in your own life. Be positive and hopeful.
  • Admit your mistakes. Children are growing up in a world with unrealistic demands for perfection. When adults admit and learn from mistakes, open themselves to feedback, and take responsibility for their actions and decisions, children learn to do the same.

Mindset #2: I Help My Kids Believe in Themselves

Children develop an inner capacity to believe in themselves through small, everyday interactions with parents. Kids develop self-confidence, resiliency, and initiative, in part, through how they are encouraged to overcome challenges, learn from mistakes, and solve problems. The article "What is Resilience?" emphasizes that these inner strengths are developed through a combination of factors, including having caring and supportive parent relationships. Parents support children's ability to believe in themselves when they:

  • Praise children for their efforts instead of their intelligence. Notice the small things they do, like showing courage, honesty, or caring for others, and then let them know how you appreciate those qualities about them.
  • Help kids focus on solutions rather than rescuing them from problems. Solving problems for children makes them dependent, not self-confident. Listen, encourage, and support them as they consider their own solutions.
  • Help kids learn from mistakes. Research shows that learning is enhanced when children make errors. Acknowledge that you don't expect your children to be perfect and let them know your love is unconditional, regardless of their mistakes. Help them see their mistakes as learning opportunities rather than defeats.
  • Encourage children to get back on their feet after setbacks - because you believe in them. Be a helpful guide as your children identify their challenges, reflect on their choices, arrive at decisions, adjust their strategies, and plan next steps.
  • When children blame others, whine, or complain, turn it into an opportunity to find out what they care about! Uncover hidden convictions that can foster your child's initiative and action in the world.

Making parenting resolutions are important at the New Year or any time of year! Instead of viewing resolutions as individual tasks, think bigger! Embrace your values and beliefs as a parent! Turn them into daily actions with your family. The resolutions you make and act upon will help shape your children's lives this year and for many more to come!

Happy New Year!


Photo Credit: Juvetson

©2011 Marilyn Price-Mitchell. All rights reserved. Please contact for permission to reprint.
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