By Dr. Laura Markham
“Dr. Laura….My new year’s resolution is to be more patient. But when I told my family, they reminded me that I made the same resolution last year. I feel like a failure, even though I know I’ve become a better mother over the past year.” — Christina
Many people don’t make New Year’s Resolutions, because they find themselves making the same resolutions every year. But that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means you’re headed in the right direction, and you aren’t perfect yet. (Shocking, I know!)
The bad news is, you won’t be perfect this year either. The good news is, you don’t have to be! Kids don’t need perfection from parents. What they need is a parent who accepts them with all their imperfections, models compassion and respect, and apologises and reconnects when things go wrong — as they inevitably do.
This is tough work, because it’s about regulating our own emotions. That’s why resolving to be more patient rarely works. By the time we’re gritting our teeth to stay “patient”, we’re already sliding into the stress response of fight, flight or freeze.
The bad news is, you won’t be perfect this year either. The good news is, you don’t have to be!
But if you want to become a more patient parent – and a happier person – it’s completely possible. Here are 5 simple resolutions to support you in creating a home with less drama and more love. Practising these is the work of a lifetime, so you still won’t be perfect in a year — in fact, you might make these same resolutions next year! But I guarantee you’ll be a more peaceful parent, with a happier, more cooperative child.
1. Resolve to work on regulating your own emotions,
so you can be the emotionally generous parent you want to be. Start by integrating daily sustainable self-nurturing into your life: Go to bed earlier so you’re better rested, eat healthfully to maintain your energy, transform those inner negative comments into encouraging ones, and slow down your pace so you’re not so stressed.
Most important of all, commit to managing your reactions. When you’re in fight or flight, your child looks like the enemy and you can’t teach well. Just say No to taking any action while you’re angry.
Does this sound hard? It is. Maybe the hardest thing we ever do. But that urgency to act is a signal that you’re in “fight or flight.” Calm your upset before you engage with your child.
Every time you restrain your own “tantrum”, you’re rewiring your brain. Each time you choose love, it makes the next choice easier. There’s no time like the present to begin. And you’ll be astonished at how your child changes, as you get better at self-regulating.
Most important of all, commit to managing your reactions.
2. Resolve to love the one you’re with
The one thing we know for certain about child development is that kids who feel loved and cherished thrive. That doesn’t mean kids who ARE loved – plenty of kids whose parents love them don’t thrive. The kids who thrive are the ones who FEEL loved and cherished for exactly who they are.
Every child is unique, so it takes a different approach for each child to feel safe, seen, and valued. The hard work for us as parents is accepting who our child is, challenges and all – and cherishing him for being that person, even while guiding his behaviour. The secret? See it from his perspective, empathise with him, and celebrate every step in the right direction. Maybe most important? Enjoy your child!
3. Resolve to stay connected
Kids only cooperate and “follow” our leadership when they feel connected. But separation happens, so we have to repeatedly reconnect.