New Year’s Resolutions that Lead to Happier Parents and Children

3 generations of familyOften, I meet with parents who are struggling with their children’s misbehavior and with feelings of failure as a parent. I point out to them that their own schooling did not teach parenting skills. Most parents do the best they can with the skills that they have. They often model these skills on what they have learned from their parents. So what can you do to make the year ahead a better one for you and for your children?


• Be aware of your own feelings and if they are negative, work hard to keep those emotions from coloring your interactions with your children. If you know that you are stressed or overworked, try to deal with that first, before dealing with your children.
• Do not think only about how you can consequence your children. Think instead about how you can reward them for the things that they do well. If your focus is totally on the negative, your kids will think that is the only way to get your attention. Give them positive reinforcement even for the little things they do right.
• All children need some one on one time with a parent. No matter how busy you are, or how many children you have, giving your child individual attention will be well received. In fact, when we work on reward charts, many children will choose time alone with a parent as a reward for good behavior. Just five minutes of private time at night can make up for a busy, chaotic day in which you have been juggling all of your responsibilities and your children’s diverse needs.
• Validate your child’s emotions even when you know they have not handled something properly. You can say “I can see angry you are at Susie,” even when you know that your daughter was unkind to Susie. Wait to discuss how she could have behaved better until you have helped calm your daughter’s anger and also talked about how Susie might be feeling. And by spending that time validating your child’s feeling, you will also be modeling empathy and understanding, important emotional intelligence skills.
• If you yell, demean, or use excluding behaviors toward your child, you are not modeling respectful behavior. Remember, no matter how frustrated you are, your children will use you as a role model, just as you used your parent’s behavior to shape your own. Even anger at misbehavior can be expressed respectfully.
• Encourage independence and reasonable risk-taking. Even if you are an anxious parent, you will raise a child who has better self-esteem and more resilience by allowing your children reasonable amounts of independence and decision making. Even if the child fails or makes a mistake, they will learn from their own experiences in ways that they will never learn from you telling them what to do.

Remember that there is no perfect in parenting. Even if you make mistakes, resolve to continue to try these things. Every small success is a building block for happier parent-child relationships.
Of course, give me a call if you need help with any parenting issues, 732-933-1333.