It’s January and our social and news feeds are full of ways to be better parents and better humans in 2018.
There’s no shortage of advice about how to de-clutter, eat healthier, exercise more, be present and “make this YOUR year.”
As a mother of two young girls, my “new year, new me” goals often revolve around parenting. September might be the time to start new daily habits and routines, but January is when I reflect on bigger picture things like how I’m doing in life.
This year I’m focusing on consistency and saying and sticking to “no” more often. I’m trying to be more comfortable with letting my kids fail and not trying to control every situation where disappointment and heartbreak are a potential outcome.
You know, small stuff.
Overall, when we think about resolutions and goal setting what we’re really saying is “I want to be better.”
And while positive change is a wonderful thing, when it comes to parenting I don’t buy into the notion that moms are the ones who should be doing all the work and making all the changes.
We often take it upon ourselves to make everything better and perfect. When something isn’t working, we are the ones to initiate change, which can leave us feeling like ogres, nagging and dragging the whole family along when it’s time to do things differently.
So in 2018, I’m changing my focus from being a better mom to being a better family. I’m going to flip the script and make us all accountable for positive change.
Instead of resolving to “yell less” I’m going to “encourage better communication.” My oldest doesn’t move until I’ve asked her three times, minimum. Often the only way to get her attention is to raise my voice and that needs to change. Consequences for ignoring me, revoking of privileges, being late for soccer practice, these are all on the table because I’m tired of being the bad guy. I’ve heard that if you yell too much your kids will tune you out so I’ll do my part by keeping my cool, and she’ll have to learn to start listening the first time or experience the consequences. End result (I hope)? Better communication.
Instead of making myself bonkers searching out kid-friendly recipes, my kids will learn to eat what’s on their plate, or go hungry. I want to be that mom, I really do. The one who seems to have Jessica Seinfeld on speed dial and can camouflage two pounds of zucchini in a brownie. But this is reality and I don’t always have the time or energy to get creative. Plus, my kids are old enough to understand if you don’t eat, you get hungry. So the choice is now theirs. I won’t get pissy about unfinished meals because I’ve done my part and put food in front of them. It’s entirely up to them what they do with it. And if the uneaten portions show up in their lunchbox the next day, so be it.
Instead of trying to mediate when they tattle and fight, I’m going to stay the hell out of it. When my kids start fighting or tattling, my first instinct is to sit everyone down and sort out what happened; an approach that has resulted in meaningful apologies and lasting peace exactly zero times. My intervention only adds fuel to the fire because someone inevitably feels she’s being sided against. So unless a thoroughly egregious offence, like shaving the cat, has been committed, I will instruct my little darlings to figure it out themselves. I will remind them that they are smart and capable and able to determine right from wrong. And then I will go back to what I was doing (probably screaming into a pillow).
I can hear you rolling your eyes when you read “encourage better communication” or “let them go hungry” because I know it isn’t easy, especially if your kids are young. Better communication with a toddler, you say? Listen to my kid cry for three hours because she’s starving? Thanks for nothing.
But you can call it whatever you want and you can make these changes in whatever areas are appropriate for you. What matters is your perspective and how you come at the problem. What matters is not holding only yourself accountable for change, or blaming only yourself when things aren’t working.
We all need to give ourselves a break and part of that is unloading some of the mental baggage that comes with being a parent. Taking a deep breath and acknowledging that you’ve done all you can on a particular issue doesn’t mean you’ve given up on being better.
There probably isn’t one person among us who doesn’t want to be a “better” parent. But without concrete actions, “better” is difficult to measure and achieve.
So whatever it is you need to make life a little more manageable, make a plan and, when possible, get the whole family involved. Trust me, you’ll feel “better.”