Every year I choose a theme for my growth and development to work on. In 2018, I wanted to be more present, and for the most part, I've really improved at it. As every parent does though, I've reflected on some of my not so good habits and often thought I could do better. And of course, I've blamed myself for some of the issues my kids struggle with, too.
In 2019, my goal is to improve my parenting. I want to be a safe harbor for my daughters, a resource, a beacon in the storms of life. I know there are certain areas I want to work on that'll give me more confidence as a mama, to ensure that I'm doing everything I can to be that safe space for them. I want to raise good kids—that's my main goal in life.
So I'm always going to continue to try harder, to give them my best. In the end—it's not perfection I'm aiming for, but improvement. Here's what I'll be working on in 2019:
1. Sleep better and more.
I'm not sure I've slept well since I became a parent nine years ago. No parent sleeps when they have a newborn and the nighttime battles with any toddler are enough to break you. Luckily (for all of us), I've found solutions for those battles.
But what about adults? Sleep is critical to our health too. It affects memory, focus and even cardiovascular health. I have bedtime routines for my kids, but did you know that bedtime routines are suggested for adults as well? In 2018, I'm going to make sleep a priority for our whole family. I'm a much better parent when I'm more rested.
2. Yell less.
I must admit, I'm a yeller. Dr. Laura Markham, a parenting expert, says that when a parent yells, "The kid releases biochemicals that say fight, flight, or freeze. They may hit you. They may run away. Or they freeze and look like a deer in headlights. None of those are good for brain formation."
Everything I've read says this pattern of behavior can set us both up for a lifetime of yelling matches, especially when my children enter their teenage years. I want to break the cycle now.
I'm going to begin each day with a goal to have a yell-free day and keep track on paper when I do yell—awareness is everything.
3. Creatively resolve boredom.
Isn't this why Pinterest was created? I grew up before iPads, and I remember when video games were invented (hello Atari), so I truly believe that kids don't need them. I'm sure I drove my mom crazy in the winter, but it seems I always had something to do.
I know a lot of moms who don't put up with "I'm bored," and most of them are more creative than I am. I like the idea of creating a jar full of activities for kids to pick from when they are bored, and there are a host of online listicles with great ideas and resources as well. Really, no kid should ever be bored.
4. Model less screen time for all.
Technology really affects my kids' behavior, and there are a lot of reasons why I prefer as little of it as possible in our lives. Studies report that too much tech use can result in obesity or social isolation, and it may even hamper a child's normal development.
Last year, I stopped allowing any screen time during the school week. But the problem with that was that I wasn't modeling good behavior myself. This year, I am going to keep better tabs of my screen use by powering off my phone when I get home from work or keeping it in my purse on silent mode.
5. Increase positive reinforcement.
Many parenting experts, like positive parenting expert Rebecca Eanes, say that positive is the way to go when it comes to parenting—especially when a child is learning something new, like an expectation for proper behavior. We are our children's encouragers, as Eanes says, and it's our job to see their light and protect it's glow.
There are all kinds of ideas out there for age-specific reward systems, I've found that making a conscious effort to point out when my kids are doing something right—by praising the process, not necessarily the person—goes a long way in encouraging good behavior.
6. Eat less sweets.
It seems sometimes that the calendar is against my goal to eat healthier as a family. From Valentine's Day to Easter, Halloween and Christmas—sometimes it seems as if there is a conspiracy to give my kids more and more treats to celebrate something. I feel like I'm always throwing out candy (shh don't tell!) from one season or another.
I've already cut dessert down to every other night. Next year, I'm going to be reducing our portions. I've realized that my kids just need a little something sweet—it really doesn't need to be much to satisfy them.
7. Teach my kids about volunteering.
I want to volunteer more as a family. It is so important for me that my children realize how fortunate they are. I specifically want to work with my girls on understanding the importance of respecting their elders, so we will be volunteering once a month at a local assisted living facility, playing games with the residents and listening to their stories.
8. Have more date nights with everyone.
One-on-one time is so important for the relationships you have with anyone—especially your children. In fact, the experts at Hand In Hand Parenting say, "This kind of undisrupted one-on-one time builds in regular close contact between a parent and child. When special time is established, there is space and time for intimacy. Over time, their trust and communication grows. If there is something troubling a child, they may show it through what they say or choose to play."
Since we became a family of four, it is rare that I have one-on-one time with either of my children. So my youngest has become my grocery store buddy every week and I get ice cream for 20 minutes with my oldest after her piano lessons. In 2018, I want to make sure my husband does the same.
And obviously, it's important for my husband and I to get alone time with each other, too. So my goal is to start going on regularly scheduled date nights one or two times a month.
If I am successful at even a couple of these resolutions this year, I'll be happy. Working towards any or all of them will help my family (and me) to become healthier and happier.
Cheers to a new year of parenting for all of us. And thank goodness for clean slates!