If Your New Year's Resolution Is to Be a Better Parent...
Five New Year’s resolutions for effective parenting that are sure to succeed.
Posted January 1, 2020
It’s that time of year once again when parents want to be their best. But New Year’s resolutions to become a better parent tend to fail quicker than children grow out of new shoes.
Instead of committing to changing yourself this year (and all the pressure that puts on you as the parent to change), try these strategies to change the world around you and your child's world too. You'll get the support you need to raise great kids, and your kids will get the structure and accountability they need to become healthier, happier individuals. As I explain in Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success, we are much more likely to make changes that endure when we have the supports we need to be great parents.
1. Commit to asking for help. Supermoms and Amazing Dads don’t do everything on their own. The better resourced you are, the calmer and happier you will be when your little one draws on the living room wall or your teenager uses language you didn’t even know they knew.
2. Before you insist children change their behavior, change the environment around your child. Want your kids to lose weight? Think about where they get the junk food and stock your fridge differently. Want them to put away their gaming system? Turn off the internet at a reasonable hour.
Want them to be more respectful and do their chores? Think about the things you do for them and hold back favors until they make your life a little easier. Structure and accountability produce far better-behaved kids than we can ever create by insisting our children change themselves in environments that keep reinforcing challenging behaviors.
3. Promise to look after yourself. A healthier parent tends to raise a healthier child, even if that means a little benign neglect of your child so you can find the time to rejuvenate.
4. Commit to modeling for your children the kind of behavior you want from them. Want them to do their homework? Try enrolling in a course or learning a musical instrument yourself. Bring your homework home and show them what it means to study or practice.
Want them to have less screen time? Offer them things to do and show them how adults spend our time offline.
5. Change the world around your child. Worried about their peers? Entice them into new activities where other children behave in ways you prefer. Want your child to respect your values? Then insist they join you at cultural celebrations, or even better, ask them to take on real responsibilities at these events so they feel a part of their community.
This New Year's, think less about how you have to change and more about how you can create an environment that supports you in your role as caregiver. Once you have that in place, then change your children's environment in ways that will push them to be their best and kindest selves.