By Sarah Hamaker, Crosswalk.com
As the calendar creeps closer to 2023, so do our goals for the new year. Some of us enjoy coming up with New Year’s Resolutions, while others avoid greeting the new year with any agenda. The statistics about keeping New Year’s resolutions are a bit dismal. A week into a new year, 75% of people who made a New Year’s resolution have been successful in keeping it. Within 14 days, that number dips to 71%. When the calendar ticks over into February, the number declines to 64%. By June, only 46% of people who made a resolution for the new year had been successful in keeping it.
Why do people struggle with keeping their New Year’s resolutions? While there are many reasons, a few that come to mind are not planning how to achieve the goal and setting unrealistic goals. This year, why don’t you set realistic parenting goals with a firm plan on how to achieve those objectives successfully?
Here are eight resolutions for parents to have in 2023—and beyond.
1. Date your spouse.
No matter how long you’ve been together, you still need to make an effort to find out new things about your other half, especially when you have children. We’re all growing as people, so our interests shift, our hobbies change, and our outlooks differ. Keep your relationship alive by committing to dating your husband or wife. To help make that happen, fill your calendar with regular dates at the beginning of the year or the first of every month, or your good intentions will be consumed by the day-to-day care of your family.
2. Start (or restart) family devotions.
There’s nothing more precious than teaching our kids about Jesus, and regular family devotions are key to making this happen in your home. Find a time when you’re all together (after the evening meal, for example) and begin. Some suggestions from my own family devotions include reading through The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos, The Life of Jesus Christ for the Young by Richard Newton, and the Big Book of Questions and Answers: A Family Devotional Guide. Have each person—including the kids—take turns praying for the family. Our kids learned so much about prayer doing this, and it also helped them feel more comfortable praying out loud.
3. Parent with open hands.
We as parents should view child-rearing as something done with open hands. How can you accomplish this?
-You become willing to let a child do what needs to be done to grow up—by himself.
-You practice stepping back with small steps at the beginning and larger steps as the child ages.
-You sometimes push him to do things he’s capable of doing—even if he thinks he can’t—without doing those things for him.
-You don’t jump in to solve every problem but let your child struggle with frustrations.
-You stop thinking more of your kid than you do of your spouse (or of yourself if you’re a single parent).
-You encourage independence in schoolwork (letting the child take ownership of his own homework without parental assistance), social life (letting the child make plans with friends without parental assistance), and problem-solving (letting the child come up with solutions, no matter how long it takes, without parental assistance).
-You refrain from smoothing the child’s path in life, allowing him to fail in order for him to learn how to overcome and preserve on his own.
-You take a permanent break from being your child’s social director, allowing the child to entertain himself—or be bored by himself.
-You develop more interests (hobbies, volunteering, a new job) apart from your children, making your life seem interesting and exciting to them.
-You show more joy than sorrow when your child reaches a milestone, like his first lost tooth, making his own breakfast, washing his clothes, and getting his first job or driver’s license.
Yes, these can be bittersweet moments as you reflect back on how much he’s grown, but rest assured that by parenting with open hands, by letting the child succeed and fail on his own, you will raise a much more well-adjusted young man or young woman, one that you will be proud to call your son or daughter.
4. Develop a parental vision.
What do you want your children to be like at age 30? What character traits do you want them to possess as adults? In our family, we want our four children to be kind-hearted, hard-working, and responsible citizens. So we parent them with those traits in mind. For example, when the siblings squabble, we remind them not to use unkind names—and correct them when they do. We expect them to do their chores without reminding—and deliver consequences when they don’t. When we have a parental vision for our children, it makes the day-to-day raising of them easier and clearer.
5. Raise your kids with the future in mind.
Along with a parental vision, you should be rearing your children with the future in mind. What does this mean? It means that we don’t take shortcuts when it comes to discipline. Some experts say that parents shouldn’t sweat the small stuff and that correcting the first misbehavior is not important. However, if you ignore the minor infractions, you’ll soon have a raging wildfire on your hands. Don’t let small things mushroom into a much bigger problem. Nip those misbehaviors in the bud when they first rear their ugly heads.
6. Enjoy your kids.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in the busyness of today that we don’t take time to stop and have fun with our kids. They will only be this age for such a short time; we really shouldn’t miss it by over-scheduling, over-committing, and overdoing it each day. Make sure you have plenty of downtime so that you can simply enjoy being around your offspring. For example, if your eight-year-old loves jokes, memorize a few new ones and share them with him. If your 16-year-old enjoys k-dramas (Korean TV shows), agree to watch one with her on a regular basis. If your 14-year-old wants to discuss video game strategy, truly listen and ask questions to engage with him. When we can enter our children’s worlds with them, they will feel our love and connection even stronger.
7. Disconnect to reconnect.
Through technology, we can be connected 24/7. An unintentional side effect of being so connected is that parents—and children—have relational fatigue from the pressure of constant communication and competition for attention. By concentrating on disconnecting, we can reaffirm our commitment to each other and our children. Have regular device-free time together, such as during family dinners, on Sundays, and overnight. A family docking station in a shared space (like the living room or kitchen) can help. When visiting relatives or friends, have your children (and yourself!) put away their devices to talk or play games. They can survive a few hours without being connected, and so can you.
8. Stop playing Parent Detective.
Parent detectives spend more time trying to uncover the whys of their children’s wrong behavior than dealing with the misbehavior itself. They also frequently give their kids a “pass” because of extenuating circumstances, such as the kids being tired, upset, or too busy. The main problem with being a parent detective is that you spend way too much effort worrying about things that aren’t worth the time. It doesn’t make you a better parent if you understand everything about your child—it makes you an ineffective parent because you’re constantly assessing the why and forgetting about the what. Resolve to spend more time addressing the what than the why, and you’ll find yourself with better-behaved children.
These parenting resolutions are designed to build a stronger connection with your kids while relieving some of your parenting stress and worry. I hope you’ll adopt one or more of these for your family in 2023.
Sarah Hamaker is a national speaker and award-winning author who loves writing romantic suspense books “where the hero and heroine fall in love while running for their lives.” She’s also a wife, mother of four teenagers, a therapeutic foster mom, a UMFS Foster Parent Ambassador, and podcaster (The Romantic Side of Suspense podcast). She coaches writers, speakers, and parents with an encouraging and commonsense approach. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.
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Are you in the trenches with your toddlers or teens? Read Rhonda's full article here!