January 05th, 2020

Fail-proof New Year resolutions for family connection

It’s the season for New Year’s resolutions! Yay! This is an opportunity to start the year off with positive intentions for the clean slate of 365 days before you. Right? Or maybe it is an opportunity to feel bad about yourself for the resolutions that failed by mid-February (or earlier) last year? You’re not alone if that was your experience. Research shows that 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February. Cue feeling down about yourself at an already grim time of year in the Northern hemisphere.

Are you going to beat yourself up for making the same resolutions in regard to your family that you made last year if you feel like you didn’t do so well on them in the last 12 months? This is a fairly typical reaction when we resolve to be more positive or calmer with our children (or partner). Did you yell at your kids in the last year, having resolved not to? Really? Welcome to the club.

So why do resolutions fail? Because we tend to make them too big and at the same time not big enough.

We can be a bit vague with our resolutions. We vow to eat more healthily or get up earlier or read more books or take more exercise or be more patient with our children. These aren’t very specific goals and they tend to focus on the short term rather than the bigger goal of building our relationships. Resolutions also fail because we don’t get support with them or because we’re not clear on whether they really support our own values. Eg why do I want to read more books? It’s only when we’re clear on the why’s that we can work out the how’s of our goals.

My advice to parents is not to resolve to be perfect parents this year. You are doomed to fail. You know there’s no such thing as a perfect parent, don’t you? And you are a perfect match for your imperfect children. No disrespect intended. You will not turn into perfect parents nor turn them into perfect children with just a little more effort on your part. And aiming for something impossible to achieve is not only the definition of insanity but it will also set a poor example for your children who model their behaviour on what they see you do. It would be such great modelling for your children to see you accept imperfection in yourself and in them while working with them to support progress.

So what are some realistic goals towards becoming more positive and more connected with your children? Here are 5 specific, measurable and achievable ideas.

  1. Set up a pasta jar. This is a tool to remind you to descriptively praise your children at least 10 times a day. Notice what they do right and comment on it while putting a piece of pasta in the jar. One jar for all the kids. Separate jars encourage competition. Be generous as this is a motivational tool. Make sure that, in line with your acceptance of imperfection, you are focusing mainly on their intentions, efforts and small steps in the right direction rather than their achievements or the outcomes of their actions.
  2. Schedule special time. Diarise some frequent regular time to focus solely on the children (or your partner). This time needs to be ring-fenced –the children need to know there is a reliable set time for them, especially if the rest of your lives are really busy. Do you know any parent whose life is not busy? Ditch the electronic devices during this time. Many families use staggered bedtimes as a chance to catch up on the day and record in a ‘Golden book’ the good things about the day; the positive things each child did as well as things for which you’re grateful. Special time may involve 15 minutes of playing UNO after bath or going to a café or kicking a ball about in the park or building a Lego castle or doing a jigsaw puzzle together. Or just hanging out. The idea is to focus on each other, so screen time doesn’t count!
  3. Sit down to eat together as often as you can. Make a specific goal that works for your family. Ensure this is device-free time and don’t discuss problems during meal times.
  4. Do activities together. The nature of the activity will depend on the age of the children of course but it could be anything from going bike-riding or other outdoor activities to doing household chores, gardening or a DIY project or cooking to engaging in charity work together. This sense of common purpose builds real togetherness and belonging.
  5. Make some family resolutions. This gets children into the habit of setting goals and fosters connection. Your goals could be to reduce screen usage in the family, or eat less meat, or recycle more or get enough sleep. Get input from the children on what the goals should be and (depending on age) how to set smaller milestones on the way to the bigger goal. Make sure they are realistic and measurable.

Acknowledge your efforts towards your goals and when you slip up accept that this is inevitable from perfectly imperfect human beings and therefore isn’t a reason to give up. It may mean you need to adjust the goal itself or your approach to it. It may mean you need more support or more self-care. Like Thomas Edison you may have discovered one of the ways not to achieve this goal. That’s learning.

Wishing you joy and ease in your families in 2020.

Posted in: Descriptive Praise , Listening and connecting , New Year Resolutions

 

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