In the new year, many people are either making resolutions to “do better” in some parts of their lives or are setting goals for the coming year. The people I talk to are nearly all parents and aside from the obvious “eating less and exercising more” pledges, their wishes for the future, and regrets about the past are related to how well they think they are parenting. Whilst setting new parenting goals is a great idea, there are many people feel that they are doing a terrible job, and that is impacting both their mental health and their parenting. For this reason there are a few really important things to consider when setting resolutions as a parent:
1. You aren't doing a terrible job!
I promise you.
If you are here reading this blog then I already know that you are doing better than you may think you are. The genuinely bad parents out there (and sadly there are some) don’t care about how good their parenting is. They aren’t fussed about reading blogs about parenting and they don’t notice that anything is wrong. They are not setting parenting goals. So no matter what you are listing in your head right this minute to convince yourself that I am wrong and you are in fact a terrible parent, you’re not.
Could you do better? Maybe. To be honest, we could all do better. No matter how well we are doing, we can all try a little harder each day or know a little more. It’s worth trying, right?
2. It's a new year, not a parallel universe!
Set realistic parenting goals
I personally have never loved “new year’s resolutions” as they are usually unreasonable, unrealistic and within a few weeks, lead to a feeling of failure. I hear lots of parents vowing to “never use their phone in the presence of their children again” or to “never shout again” or that their child is “not watching the TV again” and that lasts a few days – or in some cases (including mine) a few hours.
It’s all very well recognising that there are things you would like to change in the way that you parent; in fact it’s great. We should all strive to do and be better for ourselves and for our children. BUT, we are not going to change the whole world, who we are or who our children are, and certainly not all at once in January this year.
As a result, whatever your specific concern is (screen-time, shouting, activities…) – start slowly, gather some information and remember that taking first steps is better than no steps. Striving towards your parenting goals is the important part.
3. Set parenting goals, but be smart and take positive action
When taking your steps, setting yourself goals will help you, especially if you are smart about it:
Make your goal clear and unambiguous
Write down how you will know if you've been successful
Make sure you don't over-reach, smaller goals are better
Don't expect lots of change too soon and don't expect other people tp change
Always have a time-frame for achieving your goal.
Once you have done this, you will have a direction in which to take your steps forward. Then it’s knowing how to get there.
4. Know better, do better
At CalmFamily, we value information. We think that parents are the experts in their own children, not us, and we help parents make their own decisions by providing evidence-based information. We help parents know better, so they can choose to do the best they can for their family.
For this reason, we have an acronym to help parents with their children ’s behaviour (CRUCIAL). We suggest that if you would like to improve your parenting this year, you could focus on one of the first four areas of this to get started. Consider making your parenting goals relate to:
Children’s lives are often controlled by adults. For this reason, giving your child more control when it’s possible will mean they don’t try to take control when it’s inappropriate. But, be careful not to give them too much choice; kids need boundaries to feel safe too.
Make sure there is a rhythm to your child’s life by making sure they know what to expect, making life predictable for them, and by easing transitions through ritual.
At CalmFamily we provide information on psychology, neurology, biology of sleep, eating and the importance of play in development. This helps parents to understand what’s happening for their children. In doing so, it is then easier to empathise with them and understand their behaviour.
Effective communication with children can be tricky as they communicate differently to adults. Make sure you keep communication at their level.
5. Be kind to yourself
It is very normal to try and improve your parenting and then resort to old habits. I do it all the time. Remember that you are only human and are allowed to make mistakes. The moments when your parenting response isn’t exactly how you would have wanted it to be are a fantastic opportunity to show your children how to be sorry. This is a much more effective way of them learning to be and say sorry when they make mistakes and so is an important part of parenting too.
So, if you are wanting to do better, setting new parenting goals is fine, but please go easy on yourself.
Want to know more about your child to get your parenting goals right?
If you want to know more about CRUCIAL, including working examples, or you want to learn about toddler psychology and brain development to help your understanding, find your local ToddlerCalm teacher and book a workshop or the amazing ToddlerCalm Parenting course where you will cover everything from behaviour, sleep, eating and play.