"Dr. Laura....My new year's resolution is to be more patient. But when I told my family, they reminded me that I made the same resolution last year. I feel like a failure, even though I know I've become a better mother over the past year." -- Christina
If you make the same resolution every year, join the club. That doesn't mean you're
a failure. It means you're headed in the right direction, and you aren't perfect
yet. (Shocking, I know!)
The bad news is, you won't be perfect this year either. The good news is, you
don't have to be! Kids don't need perfection from parents. What they need is a
parent who accepts them with all their imperfections, models compassion and respect,
and apologizes and reconnects when things go wrong -- as they inevitably do.
This is tough work, because it's about regulating ourselves. That's why resolving
to be more patient rarely works. By the time we're gritting our teeth to
stay "patient" we're already sliding into the stress response of fight, flight
But if you want to become a more patient parent – and a happier person – it’s
completely possible. Here are 5 Resolutions to support you in that goal.
Practicing these is the work of a lifetime, so you still won't be perfect in a
year -- in fact, you might make these same resolutions next year! But I guarantee
you'll be a more peaceful parent, with a happier, more cooperative child.
1. Resolve to regulate your own emotions, so you
can be the happy, patient, encouraging parent your child deserves. That means integrating
daily sustainable self-nurturing into your life: Go to bed earlier so you’re better
rested, eat healthfully to maintain your mood, transform those inner negative
voices into encouraging ones, and slow down your pace so you're not as stressed.
Most important of all, commit to managing yourself. When your emotions are
dysregulated, you're in fight or flight, and your child looks like the enemy.
Resist acting while you're angry. Calm yourself before you engage with your
2. Resolve to love the one you’re with. The one thing
we know for certain about child development is that kids who feel loved and cherished
thrive. That doesn’t mean kids who ARE loved – plenty of kids whose parents
love them don’t thrive. The kids who thrive are the ones who FEEL loved and cherished
for exactly who they are. Every child is unique, so it takes a different
approach for that child to feel seen and loved. The hard work for us as parents
is accepting who our child is, warts and all – and cherishing him or her for being
that person, even while guiding behavior. The secret? See it from his
perspective, use a positive lens, and celebrate every step in the right direction.
3. Resolve to stay connected. Kids only cooperate
and "follow" our leadership when they feel connected. But separation happens, so
we have to repeatedly reconnect. Remember that quality time is about connection,
not teaching, so it’s mostly unstructured. Hug your child first thing every
morning and when you say goodbye. When you’re reunited later in the day, spend
fifteen minutes solely focused on your child. (What do you do in that 15 minutes?
Listen, commiserate, hug, roughhouse, laugh, play, empathize, listen some more.
Not enough time? What could be more important?) Stop working before dinner time
so you can devote your evening to your family. Eat dinner together.
Have a chat and a warm snuggle at bedtime every night with each child.
4. Resolve to role model respect. Want to raise kids
who are considerate and respectful, right through the teen years? Take a
deep breath, and speak to them respectfully. After all, kids learn from what
we model. If we can't manage our own emotions, we can't expect our kids to learn
to manage theirs. Not always easy when you’re angry, so remember your mantras: You’re the role model, Don’t take it personally, It's not an emergency, and This too shall pass!
5. Resolve to address the needs and feelings behind your child’s behavior. If
yelling or punishing your child for his behavior were effective, it would
have worked already. All "misbehavior" is a red flag that your child needs
your help to handle big emotions or fill unmet needs. Once you address the feelings
or needs, the behavior changes. Parents who lead by loving example, redirect
pre-emptively rather than punish (“You can throw the ball outside”), and
set limits empathically (“You’re mad and sad, but I won't let you hit. Let’s use your words to tell your brother how you feel”)
raise self-disciplined kids who WANT to follow their guidance.
Sure, your child will make mistakes, and so will you. There are no perfect parents,
no perfect children, and no perfect families. But there are families who live in
the embrace of great love, where everyone thrives. The only way to create that
kind of family is to make daily choices that take you in that direction.
It's not magic, just the hard work of constant course correction to get back on
track when life inevitably throws you off.
So don't worry if you're making the same resolutions every year. That just means
you're keeping yourself on track by choosing, over and over, to take positive steps
in the right direction. Before you know it, you'll find yourself in a whole
new landscape. Parenting, after all, is a journey -- not a destination.
"Dr.Laura's daily emails are the perfect way to start the day with love and compassion"
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids
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