Remember that book Freakonomics? It came out about 10 years ago and talked about bizarre and unexpected findings that were counterintuitive about how we think our world works. Good read.
Anyway, two chapters in the book were devoted to parenting issues. One of the findings was that when all is said and done, there is no method of parenting that is more effective than any other. Attachment or Tiger, Co-sleeping or Ferber – – none is proven to be any better than the rest.
What they discovered DOES make a difference is how much a parent actually tries, or is committed to being a good parent. So, it doesn’t matter what book or articles you read about parenting. What matters is that you are the type of person who decided to read something about parenting. Accordingly – – you are right now being an awesome parent simply by reading this.
Keeping this in mind, here is a short list of parenting resolutions that are intended to make your life as a mom or dad easier. Better yet, simply more fun!
Do ’em, don’t do ’em, make up some of your own. But please do keep in mind that you are already doing a great job. The economists have proven it.
new year’s resolutions for parents
Let your kid do something that makes you a little uncomfortable.
I don’t mean something crazy, or that goes against everything you stand for. Just let your kid (even encourage him) to do something just beyond your comfort zone as a parent. Gymnastic class, in spite of your fear of a broken arm. Music together classes, even though you’re still traumatized by your own 8th grade choir audition. Hold your breath just a little longer while the little one climbs a tree. Risk-taking is important. Show your kids you’re not adverse to it yourself.
Master the rephrase.
In grad school, I was once forced to do a paraphrasing activity where one person talks for three minutes, then the other person basically repeats back what the other person said, while naming the feelings that went along with the story. It felt incredibly stupid. I was shocked when my partner was delighted by my paraphrase of her story (“It sounds like when you could not find a parking spot you felt frustrated”) and seemed genuinely taken by the fact that I “totally got it.” Do this with your kids. Even if you think you already do it, do it more. Adults are always trying to find teachable moment to wax poetic wisdom on young ears. Trying toning that down, and spend more time showing that you totally get it.
Put the phone down and take more mental photos.
This is not a dis on the glory of smartphones. Personally I love having a camera with me at all times, and have some photos that I will always treasure because of it. Even better, I love that my 9-year-old’s favorite thing to do on my phone is to look at the camera roll (even more than playing “Cut the Rope”). Family photo albums on the go – – what could be better? But this year, when that perfect moment comes along, try capturing a mental image instead. The feeling of that little hand in yours, the giggle you suppress at the mispronounced word, even just the feeling of momentary satisfaction when someone falls asleep on you after a busy day- close your eyes and say “click.”
Look for the flip side.
Often our kids’ greatest gifts show up as their greatest flaws. What looks like lazy turns out to be the sign of a creative mind. Stubborn becomes determination — and smart aleck hides social savvy. When your kid is showing you a side that you find less than desirable, try to figure out what hidden gift it’s showing. Of course, that doesn’t mean you are happy about the behavior but once you find the flip side it’s easier to correct. Tell your kid that you see her gift, but that you don’t like it when it shows up as an inappropriate behavior- then start looking for the gift in more productive ways and praise those times.
Tell your kids how you take care of yourself.
And show them, too. Really, what do we all want for our kids? Happy, healthy, successful lives- right? Well, it’s our job to show them how to do that. Maybe that means training them to watch two episodes of “Thomas the Train” while we do a quick daily yoga routine, then taking the time to talk about how much better you feel after taking the time to care for your body. Or, maybe it means having the courage to leave a job that you hate (and your kids know you hate it, because how could they not?), and explaining to them that you deserve to be treated better. It’s easy to put ourselves second, but in some ways that’s a real disservice to our children.
Do something out of character.
Last summer I was in the middle of a home-cooking spree and had gotten very serious about trying to make everything from scratch and using only real-food ingredients. Imagine my kids delight and shock when one evening after visiting a friend we decided to have SnoCones for dinner. Any color they wanted- – with that marshmallow gunk onto, too. The occasional surprise of sugar-blitzed dinner, the slip of a curse word, the decision to just go ahead and be late to school – – these are all moments when we show our kids the importance of being flexible.
Everything in moderation- including SnoCones.