“TBOG…My new year’s resolution is to be a more patient mom. But when I told my thirteen-year-old, she [and my entire family] reminded me that I had made the same resolution last year. It punctured my resolve and guilt set in. I feel like a failure, even though somewhere in my heart I know I’ve become a better mother over the past year.”
Many people stopped making New Year’s Resolutions a long time ago because they realized that they end up making the same resolutions year in and year out! But the fact that this happens does not in any way mean that you’re a failure. If anything, it shows how human you are. How willing you are to be better than you were. It means that you’re moving in the right direction and you’re willing to keep “becoming” until you “are”. But it also means that you’re not perfect. Yep! You’re not perfect. Fortunately, no one is.
Unfortunately, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that you will not be perfect either this year. The good news is, you don’t have to be! Your children do not need perfection from you their parents. What they need are parents who are empathetic to their imperfections and love them all the same. Your children need you to model kindness and respect, and you both [i.e. your children and yourself] should not be afraid to apologize and reconnect when things go wrong, as they will inevitably do.
This is no mean feat. You’ll have to master the art of regulating your own emotions. It is why it’s tough to work to resolve to stay “patient”. By the time you’re cautioning yourself to be patient, you’re most likely already in a “fight or flight” stance. But if you do want to become a more patient parent and a joyful individual irrespective of what comes your way, it is possible. To create a home that is less drama-filled and full of love, here are five simple resolutions you can do right now. These tips are lifelong tools so you won’t be perfect in a year and that’s OK. You’re likely to make the same resolutions next year and that’s OK too. Here’s one thing I can guarantee though, you’ll be a more tranquil parent with a cheerful and cooperative child.
1. Become more in touch with your emotions by resolving to regulate them.
With the hustle and bustle of life and the everyday demands of parenting, it is so easy to get caught up in the ‘automation’ of behaviour that we forget to pause just to check how we’re doing — spirit, soul and body. The only way to become better and more patient this year is to be in touch with your emotions. Using the S.T.O.P. Principle [here’s a free eBook that can shed more light] as a strategy, you can become more self-aware.
If you want to be an emotionally generous parent then you have to constantly stay in touch with your emotions. The more stressors you’re able to eliminate, the more in tune with your emotions you can be. You can begin by making self-nurturing a daily habit: have a steady sleep routine so that you’re well rested in the morning, eat healthy so that you have adequate energy to run your day, replace negative inner thoughts and critics with positive affirmations, be kind to yourself even when you make mistakes, and don’t overwork yourself, it’s OK to take breaks. When you reduce the risk of being grumpy by eliminating or reducing stress inducers to the barest minimum, you’ll stand a better chance and regulating your emotions.
Every time you successfully restrain yourself from throwing a “tantrum” in response to your children’s tantrums, you rewire your brain. I can assure you that it may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do but you’ll be surprised at how possible it is and how rewarding it is. When you give in to the “fight or flight” nature that comes with impatience, you will see your child as the enemy whereas they’re not. As long as you can refrain from taking any form of action when angry, you’re doing a great job at regulating your emotions. Here’s one hint I’ll leave with you — regulating your emotions is the best way to get your child to “change” their behaviour.
2. Don’t give up on your child. Resolve to love them forever.
There is one singular truth about child development — they thrive when they feel loved and cherished. I have watched children who were written off, bounce back and even become better when they were placed in an atmosphere of unconditional love and they FEEL loved. There’s a difference between curating an atmosphere of love and communicating that love accurately to your child. I grew up thinking that my dad hated me. Imagine my shock when decades later, I realized that I was perhaps his favourite child! An irony, right? But that’s the little mistake we could make that could jeopardize our child’s wholesomeness. His methods of parenting made me feel that I was hated. As soon as I was able to leave home, I did not hesitate to do so and I had no idea that he was hurt by my actions.
Again and again, I have noticed how we as parents communicate our love in the best way we know how but unfortunately gets misinterpreted by those we love. It’s hurtful and that’s why I had to create a course that helped parents see a better way to resolve this challenge. Every child is uniquely created, so using a general approach for each child to feel safe, seen and valued might be counterproductive. Your natural disposition might be the best method for one child yet the worst for your other child. The tough work for us as parents is accepting who our child is – baggage and all – yet still loving them for that individuality and uniqueness they bring to the fore while guiding and correcting bad behaviour. The simple secret to doing this is to see life through their lens. When I designed the course – ENGAGING THE WORLD OF ADOLESCENCE – it was to bring hope to parents who struggled to understand their adolescents and were fast losing them. It is possible to bond effectively with your child even the seemingly “troublesome” one.
3. Commit to staying emotionally connected.
Your ability to connect before you correct will stand you out as a parent. This is primarily because children are more inclined to allow themselves to get led by you when they feel a connection to you. “Because I said so!” used to be the trick word to get children to obey instructions but with the evolving culture around us, those words are only bound to trigger one thing – rebellion. Of course, staying connected at all times is quite impossible. There will be moments of disconnect but when those separations happen, you’ll have to repeatedly reconnect.
“I want to spend quality time with my kids this year” was a statement a client mentioned as her goal for the year. That’s a huge feat and children love to be able to spend time with their parents. It’s an opportunity for bonding. The problem with that statement though is that “quality time” equates “teaching” in our minds. Spending quality time is somewhat like, “I want to have time to supervise their assignments, make sure they get their chores done and just basically be around, should they need me” in the minds of many parents and while these things are cool, that’s not quality time. Quality time is about connecting and engaging. It’s unstructured. You hug your child every morning and whenever you say goodbye, telling them how much you love them. When you get reunited, you give them your undivided attention for some time (say 20 minutes) when they unburden and tell you about their day. You get to laugh, play, empathize, and share thoughts, ideas, and memories.
Dinner time is another opportunity to spend quality time with your child. You can pause your work (if you work from home) or your chores, put your phone on silent to avoid distractions, and take your eyes off your computer to give your undivided attention. You can eat dinner together without screens and do a whole lot of listening. You’ll discover that 20 minutes may not even be enough time. When you’re truly connected, you’ll both want to please each other and put your needs above yourselves. This is quite a feat for adolescents because they tend to be quite selfish and it’s understandable because of their phase of life. But modelling this to your adolescent, showing them respect, attention and love will have them mirroring your behaviour back to you in no time. You’ll both get to enjoy each other’s company and an emotional bond is built and strengthened. Leadership is not difficult when you do this. Even if your child disagrees with your instructions, it becomes easy to disagree in an atmosphere of love.
4. Respect must be modelled at all times.
As parents, we kind of feel that “we know what’s best” for our children. And we’re not wrong about that because we do know what’s best for them. It’s just that we’re also not right about that because they also know what’s best for them — at least what they think is best for them. This is usually where power struggles come in, especially with parents of adolescents. You should realize that parenting is a partnership and until you realize at all times that the privilege of parenting is only possible because your child is willing to be parented by you, you might have constant ‘fights’. How do you deal with partnerships? Respect! We must learn to respect our children. We must show them consideration. We must remember that we are their first models and our behaviour is likely to be emulated. So, when you speak condescendingly to your child, by the time they’re old enough to take back the reigns of power from you, they’ll treat you in the same condescending manner. To raise children who are respectful, kind and generous to others (not only yourself), you must live that kind of life. If you cannot manage your emotions, especially your outbursts when you’re angry, you don’t expect your child to learn to deal with theirs. It’ll be unfair for you to lash out when you like but punish them for doing the same.
As adults, we still struggle to manage our emotions, why do we expect our children who have had little to no practice to suddenly manage theirs and then get upset when they fail to? Here are some mantras to help you manage anger:
- “She is acting like a child because she is a child”
- “I am the role model.”
- “If I understand his perspective, it’ll help me know why he did what he did”
- “Don’t take this personally”
- “This too shall pass”
5. Investigate your child’s behaviour to find out what needs and feelings are driving it.
Some time ago, I trained some parents on the topic — defiance is just a cry for help — and it was humbling to see how understanding and remorse dawned on their faces. We have gotten so used to the word “misbehaviour” as inappropriate behaviour but what do we mean when we say that our child has misbehaved? Many times, it simply means that our child has deviated from the expected behaviour we preferred for them. A friend of mine shared a story that I think is appropriate for this point. A little girl of about 5 years old, went into the garage with a nail to scratch her dad’s expensive car. Her dad had just purchased the car through a loan and was going to spend an arm and a leg just to pay it back. His insurance had not even been effected yet so the car just sat in the garage. When he returned home, he noticed his daughter extremely excited to see him, holding a nail in her hands with paint marks on them that looked suspiciously similar to his car’s. He realized that the garage door wasn’t shut and he ran to his car while observing his daughter’s toothy grin. He couldn’t contain the rage he felt as he saw his damaged car. Scratches and dents were all over it, one could not help but notice the destruction that sat in his garage. In his fury, he hit his little girl so badly that she fell and hit her head and was rushed to the hospital. When he eventually got home, he realized that the scratches had a pattern. What his daughter had written was, “Daddy, I love you so much”. He burst into tears.
While that story showed the “destruction” his daughter caused, she intended to let her dad know how much he meant to her. Children are like that. They process things simply and do not understand choices and consequences as complex as adults do. When a child defies or misbehaves, they many times are not doing so out of spite. It is the only way they understand to process complex emotions. You have to help identify what needs are not being met or what big emotions they cannot handle rather than classify them as misbehaving children. Defiance is a cry for help and misbehaviour is a red flag that screams, “I need help to process my emotions”. This is one place where your ability to connect with your child deeply will help you know when to redirect preemptively rather than punish and to set limits empathically. The most important time to let your connection with your child flow is when they act out.
I should give you fair warning though. You’ll make mistakes. Your child will too. But that’s OK. There are no perfect parents anywhere in the world. There are no perfect children too neither are there perfect families. Perfection is a journey we all must walk. It is not a destination. Despite the mistakes you’re guaranteed to make when you create an atmosphere of love, everyone will thrive. Love means when you make mistakes, you own up to them and make amends. The only way to improve your resolution for the year is to make daily choices that take you in the direction you wish. Build a club for moms if you have to so that you can all hold yourselves accountable. 2023 can be for you a year of constant correction, forgiving yourself when you slip up and getting back on track when life throws you off. So, don’t feel troubled if you’re making the same resolutions year in and year out. It only means that you’re deliberate about growth and you’re choosing over and over to take positive steps in the right direction. You’ll be surprised at how much growth you’ll accomplish and how far you’ll go. Your resolutions can make you parent with less drama and more love. Don’t give up!
If these resolutions sound too humongous, that just means you need more support. Have you thought of taking my self-paced Online Course, which gives you a wealth of resources to transform your family? Giving yourself support is not selfish. It’s the best gift you could give yourself and your family. Thank you for all the hard work you do, every day, in your home. I’m honoured to accompany you on your parenting journey, and I look forward to supporting you in making 2023 the best year yet for you and your family. May the New Year shower blessings on you and your family.