Setting Goals For The New Year - Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,
My main job at present is parenting three precious children.

Some of our friends and family have been talking about resolutions for self-improvement in the new year which got me thinking about how I’d like to do better as a parent. But I don’t know where to begin. What are some goals or ideals I should be aiming for?

Performance in Review

Dear P. in R.,

This a great time of year to reflect on how we are doing in all facets of life. Parenting with intention is an admirable topic area for New Year resolutions. See which of these issues feel relevant to you and your family.

Time Management/ Daily Rhythms
If your days often feel rushed and unproductive, it may be time to tweak the daily schedule. A good first step is to be sure the essentials are well-timed - sleeping, eating, getting to and from activities – with adequate blocks in the week reserved for the necessary tasks of grocery shopping and laundry. Add just enough extras – regular trips to the public library, for example - to form a basic weekly schedule. Around this there needs to be room for medical visits and time with friends, so try to keep it loose enough!

Whenever possible, include a child or two, or three, in the chores of running the house. While it takes longer when they are young, your positive interactions as you teach and compliment them on these skills count as quality parenting time. And as they grow more competent in each chore, you are building self-confidence and helping your children with skills needed before they can leave the nest.

Resolve to enjoy some “Me Time” – a few minutes every day, an hour a week, or a day to yourself once a month!

Nutrition
There’s always room for improvement when it comes to children’s nutrition. Mindful shopping on your part only leaves your children choices among foods that are good for them: whole grains, calcium rich foods (dairy products, leafy greens, chia seeds, almonds, etc.), minimally prepared vegetables, fruits, and protein. (Read the labels to avoid non-nutritious additives.) If you keep time in the schedule for cooking, your family will be less at the mercy of what’s available on the spur of the moment, which is usually less-than-wholesome, particularly when you’re out and about. Cooking ahead when you have more time at home also assures better choices are available. If you’ll be on the road when children might be needing snacks and meals, pack along the good stuff from your kitchen.
Water is fundamental for good health, so find ways to “water” your children easily before the need to rehydrate arises and sweeter, much less healthy alternatives beckon.

Outside Play and Exploration
A worthy resolution for your family may be to address the unhealthy trend toward spending too much time indoors. Does every child have clothing for active adventure in winter weather? The key is layering to trap body heat. Double socks are my personal favorite for staying cozily warm outside this time of year. Proper shoes or boots for climbing, running, puddle splashing, and snow makes a big difference, too. Spending at least a little active time in nature every day boosts the immune system, creativity, muscle and bone growth, and reduces stress. Not to mention, all the learning and appreciation your children will gain as they interact with rocks and puddles, and make seasonal observations of plants and animals. Early sunsets add opportunities for stargazing before bedtime (or pre-dawn if that’s your thing!).
A website by Kaboom! helps you to locate playgrounds, and welcomes you to add more. The organization’s goal is to assure there are outdoor play areas for all children.

Relationships
Maybe you’ve already thought about how your good parenting helps your children to feel emotionally secure and prepares them to interact well with others. It’s a fact. Extra attention from you to shape positive sibling relationships further readies your offspring for relationships outside the family. They will inevitably face ups and downs with playmates, classmates, roommates, co-workers, romantic partners, and their own children. Your thoughtful guidance through conflicts can equip your children to develop empathy as you help them to work out solutions with one another.

Your own relationships, especially with other parents, serve as a model for your children. They see that you value and nurture friendships of your own, using them for fun times together and for mutual support. The ideal parent friend harmonizes with your parenting style and has children who are friends with yours. Resolve to add a new friend to your parenting network.

Observing and Reflecting
Resolve to take time, more than once a year, to take notice of your children’s changing interests, developing skills, and unique personalities. Consider specific goals that you can assist with for each child. For example, one may ask many questions during a reading of a book about a butterfly prompting you to enrich the discussion with new vocabulary. Sprinkle the new words into your casual conversations: species, chrysalis, metamorphosis, migration, etc. until they stick. You might also make a mental note to hunt down more books at the library and to plan a spring outing to Brookside Gardens or the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History .A younger child may be working on the social skill of turn taking, so you introduce using the kitchen egg timer (as your mother taught you and your siblings) as a way for playmates to tolerate a short wait for one another to finish playing with a prized toy.
Think about the values you want to impart to your children, and the family stories – from last week, last year, and from before they were born - that you’ll weave into teachable moments. There is a consciousness to good parenting that brings the best threads of family history into the present, making valuable lessons of the past relevant to today and to your children’s future.

It is always timely to reflect on the job you are doing as a parent. As my grandfather used to say, according to my mother, anything worth doing is worth doing well.

Dr. Debbie

 

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