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What Children Want As Parents’ New Year’s Resolutions

Find out what New Year’s resolutions kids want parents to make.

Key points

  • Kids say that what they would like from their parents is time and a good attitude, rather than “things.”
  • Children often ask for more opportunities to make decisions for themselves and the family when reasonable.
  • A parent who demonstrates active listening promotes feelings of love, caring, and more openness in their kids.

As we make New Year’s resolutions, we often think of what we can do to make ourselves “better.” This year, consider how to increase your parenting success by finding out what resolutions your kids want you to make.

Source: personal photo DR Willis

When kids are asked what they would like parents to do (or not do), they tend to veer away from “just more stuff.” More video game time, pizza for dinner, later bedtimes, more allowance are certainly desired, but what they really want relates to parents’ time and attitude, rather than “things.”

Frequent Responses

Less time online: Six in ten parents worry that their children spend too much time online. But, seven in ten children worry that their parents are plugged in and tuned out (New Forest National Park Authority Great Britain, 2014).

More family time. Doing things you’d all enjoy, and kids get to help plan. For example, Sports, art, walks, cooking, working out together with opportunities for communication.

Working with them, but not taking over. Projects they like, such as LEGO construction or school projects. Honor effort as much or more than achievements.

Opportunities for self-reliance. Providing more opportunities to make decisions for themselves and the family when reasonable. Like asking their opinion about the next car or vacation.

Source: personal photo

Honesty. If you can’t tell the truth for various reasonable reasons, let them know that you are giving them the information you can for now.

If they ask why then let them know that it's not to hurt someone’s feelings, break a promise, or keep the magic in an experience.

For example, if they are no longer tooth fairy believers but still love the magic of Santa, you can use that example “Didn’t you like believing in the tooth fairy? Other things I don’t want to tell you are wonderous delights of childhood you want to keep.”

Keep promises. Although parents are sincere in their promises, such as which child gets to select the bedtime book or family TV show, sometimes we forget, and children are likely to remember. Think of a promise to a child as a serious contract. If you can’t fulfill it, discuss it.

Discuss “fairness” as not always meaning every person receives the same. Explain how allowances may increase with age and the rules about how old someone must be to ride or drive a car. Listen to their side before accepting accusations.

Surprises. Think of the times you surprised them to their delight. It did not have to be a big vacation or a new bike. It could have been a surprise breakfast of Micky Mouse pancakes or a special late bedtime to watch the sky on a big shooting star night. These are so memorable to kids that you can have a great impact with these fun surprises.

Source: personal photo

Communication Kids Want From Parents

When young, toddlers and kids made it clear that they wanted you to listen with your full attention or drink six teacups of pretend tea with gusto.

As they grow, they begin to feel they don’t always have your full attention when they talk to you or respond to your questions.

Good communication skills go beyond speaking and listening. They include being tuned in to the speaker's nonverbal behavior, emotions, and deep meaning beyond the words. You improve mutual understanding, relationships and sustain strong communications with active listening.

What is Active Listening?

Active listening promotes feelings of love, caring, and more openness in kids. It means being non-judgmental, emphasizing listening, and not necessarily solving the issue or problem. Be attentive and respectful to what your child is saying without allowing your emotional responses to what you say should show in your expressions or body language.

Active listeners don't jump ahead to think about solutions while children are still speaking. They refrain from letting concerns or protective feelings kick in initially. As you build your active listening skills, you'll find your children’s positive emotional states and responses will reflect their awareness and trust that they have your full, nonjudgmental attention.

Actions of Active Listening

Active listening is a structured way of listening and responding to others such that your students or their parents know you are truly interested in their ideas, concerns, and opinions.

  • Suspend judgment. Misunderstandings are often caused by how our biases or expectations affect what we see and hear. To fully attend to your child, be prepared. Before and while listening, check your frame of reference so you don't won't let your preconceptions or predictions of what will be said get in the way of your fully attending to them.
  • Focus on the speaker.
  • Maintain relaxed eye contact.
  • Watch for non-verbal cues such as your child’s facial expressions, vocal inflection, or posture.
  • Consider how your posture, position, expressions, and tone might influence your child. You can either remain neutral or provide encouraging non-verbal cues such as nodding affirmation, smiling, or leaning toward them. For more reluctant children, you can offer encouraging words like, "I hear what you are saying," or "Please continue."
  • No interruptions (or questions): Even questions you feel are very important can be potential interruptions to the speaker's flow and confidence if asked while still they are talking or thinking. If you can, try to remember the question. If you need to write it down, first explain that what you write is to help you remember things said and want to ask later, so you don’t disturb them.

Wait Time: Pausing Before Responding Serves Several Purposes

It is natural to want to jump in with solutions, especially as you've likely previously given thought to the topic. However, interruptions can block further communication if the speaker has not finished. Your jumping in can then be frustratingly interpreted as you not wanting to hear any more. As your child continues and you actively listen, you may also find that you get more insight into better suggestions and responses.

  • Waiting to be sure they are finished and not interrupting shows you are focused on your child. Not jumping in before giving your thoughts can prevent misunderstandings.
  • During the pause, you'll also find that your child can collect their thoughts and recognize your attentive responsiveness. By acknowledging your focus, the pause gives your child the confidence to reveal what they may have been reluctant to share until sure of your empathy or understanding.
  • Remember that sustaining eye-contact and engaged posture is critical when they speak and during the wait time. They will interpret your active listening as your interest rather than boredom or distraction.

Responses After the Wait Time

  • Verbalize the feelings you perceived in your child, but keep your words from sounding accusatory, critical, or angry. Consider instead of, “You do tend to get frustrated.” use the phrasing, "I feel you are frustrated, is that right?"
  • Summarizing what you heard, using your child’s words with your words, confirms your desire to understand as you build trust and sends the message that they can speak further to clarify or extend what they said. “It seems to me that you are saying that..., but please let me know if I'm misunderstanding you or missing something.”
  • Offer (with their permission) feedback on your interpretations of their expression, tone, and posture, and ask if your impressions are correct. This will also increase their awareness and responsiveness to nonvisual cues to better their communication skills.

When it is your turn to provide feedback:

  • First, ask for their ideas for solving the problem, addressing the concern, acting on the goal, etc. “What step would you take first.” This could extend their considering and planning of the next step or solutions.
  • No idea should be immediately rejected during feedback. Encourage them to think of other actions or alternatives.
  • Only after your child has a chance to consider ideas, ask if they'd like your input. They will be honored and remain communicative because you avoided jumping in too soon.

Can’t be truly present?

It is not always possible for you to stop what you are doing to be an active listener. Be clear about your intentions to do so by saying something like, “I can hear that this is really important to you and want to give you my full attention. Can we wait for a bit?”

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As you make your New Year’s resolutions and consider what resolutions kids want parents to make, it sets your relationship up for success and more joy in the coming year. I wish you the best for your new year.

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