As another year begins, so does the usual round of resolutions: lose weight, start a fitness program, save more money, read more, watch less TV and so on. The list is usually predictable, but as we make our annual commitment to improve our lives, do we ever make resolutions about our children?
Even those of us who actually resolve to be better parents often do so in vague, non-definitive ways. How many of us give much thought to resolutions in a more profound or meaningful way—in a way that doesn’t focus on self-improvements in the traditional sense but rather that impact our relationships with others, our families and most importantly, our children.
So, what if we were to take a different approach? Instead of saying, “My New Year’s resolution is to__________,” we say, “This year, I resolve not merely to be a better parent but to give my child what she needs, not just what she wants.”
Resolutions that may change your life and your child’s life:
- I resolve to listen attentively when my child speaks with me and truly hear what she says.
- I resolve to allow my child to do for herself what she is capable of doing and thus foster independence, self-reliance and resilience.
- I resolve to allow my child to feel disappointment and rejection so she will learn to cope with these human emotions through her own experience.
- I resolve to hold my child accountable for her actions, as true self-discipline is learned only when she faces the consequences of actions, good or bad.
- I resolve to stop saying “good job” every time my child completes a task. Instead I will encourage her and acknowledge the effort and perseverance with statements like, “I can tell you worked very hard on that.”
- I resolve not to do my child’s homework or school project for her. I will offer support and assistance only if asked and after she has exhausted other resources.
- I resolve to give my child regular and meaningful responsibilities, including household chores so that she understands the importance of contributing as a member of the family.
- I resolve not to bring my child’s lunch (or any other items) to school if she forgets, knowing that she won’t starve, someone will share and she will remember the lunch box (item) the next day.
- I resolve to help my child develop compassion and empathy for others by giving her opportunities to contribute to her community, thereby enhancing her sensitivity to the needs and feeling of others.
- I resolve to allow my child to “fail” so that she learns to deal adaptively with failure, knowing that effort and perseverance are more important than always winning.
- I resolve not to give “things” as a substitute for my time, knowing that they are poor and inadequate offerings and given generally to assuage my guilt for not being available.
- I resolve not to give my child everything while asking nothing in return, thereby robbing her of motivation and creativity. Children need to learn that here is a link between effort and reward and when things are given too freely their value is diminished.
And, most of all, I resolve to be the kind of parent who promotes the values that will enable my child to be a healthy, independent, compassionate and contributing member of society.