New Year’s Resolutions: Power Up Your Parenting

As the big hand creeps its way toward midnight, most people give at least a fleeting thought to New Year’s resolutions. For many of us Palisadians, those usually have to do with eating or exercise or a nagging behavior ripe for modification. And we all know how long those last: Not very. Instead, let’s talk about resolving to make some changes in your parenting – small adjustments that you can do and keep up – that will make a big difference in your life with your child.

Even the best (whatever that means) of parents, has a list of things she thinks she could do better as a parent – not yell so much, get home earlier at night, be more patient. I’ll bet you have at least one of those on your own list, right?

Here are five parenting tips for the coming year you might want to add to your list, ones that you can easily put into practice.

1. Listen to your kids.

Sounds obvious, even ridiculous, doesn’t it? There is a reason we are given one mouth and two ears. Children want and need air time. When they get it from you the unspoken message is: You matter. I care about what you have to say. Your ideas, thoughts and opinions are worthy of being heard.

So, slow down, wait, face your child, get on his level and listen to what he has to say. Don’t talk over him, don’t finish his thoughts and don’t hurry him to get on with it. The time you invest listening will pay immeasurable dividends.

2. Count to 10.

Before you respond to anything that is beyond the mundane with your child, pause. Do not react; do not say anything – no threats, no judgments, no punishments. Just wait. The space you create will allow you to think about your response. It will lessen the likelihood of a misfire on your part.

We parents are often so quick on the trigger that we regret what has spewed forth. Only slightly easier than putting toothpaste back in the tube, taking back your hastily delivered judgments, crazy consequences or insane threats is tricky. Pausing and counting to 10 will get you closer to the response you deliberately and wisely choose.

3. Beware of hollow threats. 

Parents come up with the wildest threats when they are trying to get a child to do or not do something. If you don’t come to the bath right now, we are not going to Disneyland on Saturday. Or If you don’t stop bothering your brother, I am giving away your new fire truck. Huh? Really? Not only do children smell your insincerity, but they also know if you will follow through.

Threats that are feasible, (especially ones that are logically related to the misbehavior), ones that you actually carry out, are effective. Your child learns that you mean what you say. And the behavior stands a good chance of changing.

4. Stay the course.

When it comes to getting what they want, kids will go to all ends, and they have incredible tenacity. They beg, they whine, they hound, they negotiate, they debate, they look for a chink in the armor. Don’t let them wear you down. If No is your answer, stick to your No.

If you are not sure of your answer, steer clear of No and go with I need to think about it. Children who are raised with consistent, non-negotiable boundaries and limits are happier children. And remember one yes will sustain a child through a thousand no’s.

5. Be good to yourself.

Much like the “Oxygen Mask Theory,” a parent who takes care of herself will be a better parent. If you are spent, you are no good to anyone. You say things you regret; you channel the parent you swore you’d never be.

So, have that massage or lunch with friends, say No to one more committee chairmanship, turn over the reins one night and treat yourself to a hot, steamy bath. You will be the parent you want to be, and your whole family will reap the benefits.

Now, let’s get started.

Betsy Brown Braun, bestselling author of the award-winning books Just Tell Me What to Say and You’re Not the Boss of Me is a child development and behavior specialist, parenting expert and multiple birth parenting consultant. She consults with parents privately and runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers and other professionals. She is a frequent guest on radio and television – including the Today Show, Good Morning America and The Rachael Ray Show – and her parenting expertise has been featured in numerous print publications, websites and blogs. She and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have three grandchildren, so far. Visit: betsybrownbraun.com, Facebook.com/BetsyBBraun and Twitter @BetsyBBraun.

Note: In February, the Post will debut “Ask Betsy Brown Braun,” a monthly column in which the renowned parenting expert will be answering your questions about raising children in the Palisades. Submit your questions to info@palipost.com with the subject line “Ask Betsy Brown Braun.”