The most popular New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, exercise more, become better organized, get out of debt and quit smoking. Seldom, if ever, will you find someone saying, “I want to be a better parent” or “I want our family to be happier” this year. Wouldn’t that be a good goal to have?
Many parents would agree that parenting is the most important job that they have. It’s a job that parents do 24/7. It’s a job that parents have for life. It’s a job that has the most influence on how a young adult turns out. Yet, few parents set goals on improving their parenting.
Perhaps, it would be a wise idea to take a step back, at least once a year, and ask your self, “How am I doing?” “Am I the parent that I want to be?” “Am I effective in addressing the everyday challenges that arise?”
Below are five suggestions that could help you to be a better parent for your children. I'd love to hear your opinion.
1. Yell Less. Without a doubt, most parents feel ashamed, guilty, saddened or embarrassed when they yell at their kids. Yet, parents yell at their kids, on average, about five times a week. I’ve worked with parents who admit to yelling up to six times a day at their children. It doesn’t feel good to you or to your kids.
Figure out what your triggers are. Often times, a parent’s anger comes when a child doesn’t listen the first time, the parent doesn’t have age-appropriate expectations for a child, is too strict or too lenient, is tired, or stressed. (See below.)
Research-proven remedies to control anger are: deep breathing, leaving the scene, using positive self-talk and finding a healthy outlet to rid yourself of the anger such as writing in a journal, calling a friend, listening to music, etc.
Make a commitment to reduce your own anger outbursts and your whole family will be happier.
2. Sleep More. About 30 % of adults get less than seven hours of sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, seven to eight hours of sleep per night are recommended.
Parents who are sleep-deprived will be more irritable, less patient, have difficulty concentrating, be involved in more car accidents, make more mistakes, feel fatigued and be less productive.
Children who are sleep deprived are more likely to have difficulty focusing, staying on task, and learning in school. They have more tantrums, whine more, hit more, and misbehave more often. An estimated 70 million American children from infants to teens are sleep deprived. (Source: Sleepless in America, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka)
In other words, parents and children would yell less and feel happier if both were getting adequate sleep.
Sleep is as necessary as food and water to a child’s development, particularly brain development, yet many parents are not being the gate-keepers when it comes to ensuring that their child has enough sleep.
Here are suggested sleep requirements:
- Babies: 14-16 hours
- Toddlers: 13 hours
- Preschoolers: 12 hours
- School-age children: 10 hours
- Adolescents: 9.25 hours
(Sleepless in America, Mary Sheedy Kurcinka)
Do the math. Do you need to make changes in your family’s schedule to permit adequate sleep for all of you? Make a commitment to getting enough sleep and you’ll notice a decrease in “misbehaviors” in your child and you’ll feel better equipped to handle the problems that do come up.
3. Reduce Stress – A Parenting magazine survey found that 96% of mothers admit feeling stressed.
Mild to moderate stress can help improve overall performance, yet excess stress can lead to health concerns. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 80% of health care is spent on stress-related disorders.
Stress can come from external sources such as a job, traffic, death of a loved one, etc.
Stress can also come from internal factors such as lifestyle choices you make such as over scheduling, being controlling, negative, self-critical, eating poorly and a lack of exercise. (Stress Management, Life Care)
When parents feel stress, they pass this stress on to their child by yelling more often, being impatient and unresponsive to a child’s needs.
To reduce stress use some of the following methods: deep breathing, visualization techniques, removing your self from the situation, positive self-talk, exercising, stretching, goal setting and eating well balanced meals.
4. Reduce Commitments- American kids are the most scheduled kids in the world, yet they are sadder, more materialistic, narcissistic, anxious, stressed, disrespectful, ill behaved, and poorly prepared to cope with life than other children throughout the world. (Source: The Big Book of Parenting Solutions, Michele Borba.)
Time with family is the highest protective factor for your child to grow up and become a caring, responsible adult. Do you have time daily to eat meals together, hang out and have fun? Or do you feel frenzied rushing from activity to activity? Do you and your child have down time each day to unwind?
Consider dropping one or more activity from your schedule or look into programs that are less time-intensive for your child.
5. Consider Chilling Out- Are you trying to be a Super Parent who raises Super Kids? Are you a perfectionist? Are you trying to “keep up with the Jones?” rather than living your own values and following your own instincts about what’s right for you and your child?
Super-high expectations for a clean house, academics and sports-related performance can back fire and cause your child to become anxious and stressed.
Accept that some clutter is going to be part of your home as long as you have children. Provide organizational tools that are optimal and then have 10-minute clean-up periods every day with your kids to contain the clutter.
Focus on the experience of having your child participate in an activity rather than their “performance.” Children who still regard activities as fun will be more likely to practice them without performance anxiety.
Recognize that your child is a work in progress. Provide tools that help advance their independence and you’ll be giving them the gift of self-esteem, too.
Toni Schutta, Parent Coach, M.A., L.P.