Here are 10 simple resolutions to consider with regard to your parenting as you enter 2015, in the hopes of raising happy, healthy children:
1. Be present. It’s easier than ever to get sucked into our devices and to let them distract us from human connection. If we want to parent kids who have a healthy, balanced approach to electronics, we must reflect on our own relationships with our phones and computers because we set the example.
2. Be positive. Try to reduce your use of the word “don’t.” Encourage positive behavior by specifically addressing it: “Pick up the cat gently” instead of “Don’t pick the cat up like that.”
3. Catch the good. People learn better from positive feedback than from negative feedback. Comments like, “I loved how kind you were when you were playing with your sister,” can do wonders to boost your child’s self-esteem and can shape positive behavior.
4. Encourage healthier eating and more physical activity for the whole family. Ask your child to find fun, healthy recipes on the internet for the family to try. Throw a ball in the yard, take family jogs, and prioritize a healthy lifestyle.
5. Get better sleep. Most American children aren’t getting enough sleep, and their parents aren’t doing any better. Establish an early bedtime and a short “quiet time” before bed during which you and the kids can wind down, read, and have a brief snuggle or check-in. When families do bedtime well, both parents and kids describe it as the most intimate part of their day.
6. Be a better spouse. Giving your kids a good example of a healthy and loving parental partnership will help them feel secure and confident.
7. Practice patience. It’s ridiculous to expect your toddler to stop having so many tantrums if you are regularly losing control and behaving impulsively. Parents who can be patient and calm are the best models for children to learn those same skills.
8. Be a good listener. If your child is mad or sad, try to understand her perspective, and paraphrase her statements to check your understanding of what she is saying. Whenever possible, put down what you are doing and give your full attention and eye contact.
9. Stop negotiating. The more you negotiate with your child, the more you’re teaching your child that everything is negotiable. In order for your child to respect you, it is important that he/she be able to accept your answer and know it will stand.
10. Go easier on yourself. With all the parenting advice out there, it’s easy to get swept up and to worry you’re doing nothing right. But the best way to have healthy, happy kids is to love them and to just try your best. Kids know when they are loved, and that is the #1 thing they will carry with them into adulthood.
Paige Fegan, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist