Best Parenting Tips for the New Year
If your like most people, you’ll start 2022 highly motivated. You might have purchased a new gym membership and prepared meal package. Or maybe you’ve decided this year you’re going to reduce your debt or finish the degree you started towards several years ago.
And while those are admirable resolutions, I’d like you to add something a little different to your list.
It’s a resolution that will impact your family and your life for years to come. Something that will bring peace and joy into your home in ways you’ve never experienced. Something that will connect you with your children in a more profound and meaningful way.
This, my friends, is a resolution you can keep: Become the best parent you can be.
To help you make that resolution a reality, here are 6 practical things you can start doing today. This isn’t about doing MORE, but rather about doing things BETTER – for you and your children.
If you resolve to be the best you can be for the most important people in your life and start to make these 6 changes today, in 2022, you will be awed by the parent you have become.
1. Rethink the Way You Spend Time with Your Kids
Review your day-in-day-out interactions with the kids. How often are you multitasking with dinner or laundry or the bazillion other things on your list and not giving your Child your undivided attention?
While we may be physically NEAR our kids, we may not be fully present in mind, body, and soul. (I am guilty of this, and in 2021 made did a better job of stopping what I was doing when my daughters came to talk to me about things that happened in their days, and it improved our relationship)
If we don’t do this, we pay the price. That is because research shows that if kids don’t get some “fully present and engaged” time with us during the day, they will fill their attention baskets one way or another – by whining, clinging, interrupting, and yes, fighting with siblings. Do any of those sound familiar?
All these behaviors are based on trying to get your attention – albeit negative attention. While it might seem silly to think a child would seek out negative attention when they don’t get positive attention, but the truth is, kids simply want their parental connection baskets filled.
The good news is you can turn those behaviors around by making a minor tweak to the time you already spend with your kids – kid-centered, intentional, and scheduled time.
It requires that you spend 10 INTENTIONAL minutes, each day one-on-one, with each of your kids. A resource I use, Positive Parenting Solutions, calls this Mind, Body, and Soul time because of its incredible effects on the health of your Child’s mind, body, and soul.
Kid-centered means your Child is in control of the 10 minutes– and they call the shots. Tea party? Lego project? Dressing up, mommy or daddy? A Fort building? Playing on the swings set? Listening to their favorite music with them? Whatever they choose, you do. (The only constraint is that it be an activity that can reasonably be accomplished in 10-15 minutes.) By giving your Child the power to control what happens during this time, you help fill their emotional buckets in powerful ways, and they also learn some leadership lessons.
Intentional means no distractions–put the cell phone down, shut down email and Facebook notifications, turn off the TV unless they want you to watch their favorite show with you. For these 10-15 minutes, your Child is the center of your universe, and it’s critical that you are fully present for them.
Lastly, be sure to come up with a name for this time and include your Child in coming up with the name. After the session, say something like, “I really enjoyed our special time today! I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow!” Your Child will benefit from knowing you’re committed to spending time with them, and they will remember how these sessions made them feel as they grow older.
Note: During 2022, I will post some tips to help you with Mind, Body, and Soul Time.
2. Ensure Your Child Gets Enough Sleep
Sleep matters…a lot. While kids would never admit it, they need regular bedtimes and plenty of rest to be at their best. These are essential components to leading a healthy, calm lifestyle and are often the first things we abandon as we celebrate the holiday season. They are also the most difficult to restore when the holidays end.
So how do we back up bedtime from the late hours they’ve grown accustomed to keeping?
The most effective way to get your kids more sleep is to set early bedtimes and keep them consistent throughout the week, and during the weekends, only vary them by about 15-minutes. Importantly, when you give in to a late bedtime once, kids will think that bedtime is always open for negotiation.
Note: During 2022, I will post some tips to help you streamline your bedtime routine.
3. Revise Routines
Once you’ve established bedtimes, revise your evening routine, so the not-so-fun stuff (brushing teeth, picking out clothes for the next day) comes before the good stuff (reading with Mom or Dad until lights out at 8:30).
In parenting circles, we call this a When-Then Routine, and it can revolutionize how you manage all the tricky times in the day. For example, WHEN your Child is done studying his French verbs, THEN he can have 30 minutes of technology time. Or WHEN your daughter gets dressed, packs her backpack, and makes her bed, THEN she can eat breakfast.
It is important that the very last item in the routine–enjoying media time, perhaps, or playing with friends– only happens after the un-fun stuff is done.
Start small by revamping one routine at a time. Once you have bedtimes streamlined, for instance, move on to mornings. Stick to the routine and soon your kids will take control of their own schedules with less pushback from them and no nagging from you.
Note: We will share some tips in the future on how to implement When-Then Routines
4. Demonstrate the Behavior You Want to See in your Child
Most parents aren’t aware of it–or don’t like to admit it–but we do a lot of things that contribute to our kids’ poor behavior.
Have you ever heard a parent tell a child, “Do as I say, not as I do?”
Was your next thought, “Hey, that’s not fair!?”
You’re not alone.
Kids tend to see the world in black and white, and if our actions are not consistent with our words, they will push back and that often leads to a battle of wills!
Do you harp on your kids for leaving toys all over the house, while your desk is covered in a mound of papers?
Do you yell at your kids to reprimand them for yelling at each other?
Are you eating on the couch when you tell your kids to take their snacks out of the living room?
I personally witnessed my daughter say to my wife, “You have more shoes in the family room than I do; how come you can leave them there, and I can’t?” The aftermath wasn’t pretty, but she did make a point.
Whether we like it or not, kids pay more attention to what we DO rather than what we say.
When we command one thing and do another, we send the message that our rules are optional. By eliminating the double standards, our kids will behave better.
5. Give Every Kid a Job (or two)
Do you remember a time when your kids never wanted to help around the house? That doesn’t mean your kids should be exempt from taking on responsibilities at home.
In fact, children of all ages thrive when they feel useful and needed, even if it’s only taking dishes off the table or putting cans in the recycle bin. What’s more, when you divide the work, it gets done faster, fosters a spirit of teamwork, and best of all, you’ll feel less harried and have more time to spend with your family.
Studies show that the earlier you enlist your Child’s help, the less pushback you’ll receive.
First, assigning every kid an age-appropriate job.
Second, train each Child thoroughly in any new skills and make sure they understand your expectations.
Once they’re able to handle the task on their own, make it a part of their When-Then Routine, or set up in advance a reasonable consequence if the task doesn’t get finished.
By remaining consistent in your expectations, your kids will see you’re not going to let them wiggle out of their new responsibility and they will complete their jobs without having a tantrum.
6. Schedule Weekly Family Meetings
A new year often brings changes to soccer, baseball, dance schedules. Carpooling arrangements might need to be adjusted to get everyone to where they need to be at the right time.
That’s where a family meeting is helpful.
Set aside a few minutes each week at a regular time, such as Sunday evenings, to meet as a family and go over the activities for the next week. It’s also an opportunity to tackle any family issues that might have occurred during the past week or highlight what your Child did well.
Make it fun by assigning rotating jobs to each member of the family: Meeting Leader, Note Taker, Snack Server, etc. Not only will this strengthen your connection as a family, but your kids might start stepping up and taking on more responsibility.
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Eric Rangel-Ribeiro is the proud owner alongside Joshua Fracker, Barbara Robinson, and Bernard Robinson of Resilient Martial Arts a World Taekwondo, Kali & SKILLZ Lifetime Gold academy in Midlothian, Virginia. Eric is also a brand ambassador for SKILLZ Worldwide and specializes in working with members of the local Neuro Diverse community. As a leading advocate for adapting Martial Arts Classes for people of all abilities he has partnered with another Martial Arts School owner and each week hosts a show to help other school owners across the country implement programs for Neuro Diverse members of their community.