New Year’s Resolutions for Better Parenting

It’s almost the new year and everybody is all about their new year’s resolutions. And I’m no different.

To tell you the truth, usually, I’m not the guy who declares his new year’s resolution. Actually, I don’t usually set any. I used to have little faith in the power of new year’s resolution because I figured out it’s mainly a thing you say and not a thing you actually follow through.

And as far as I know, the research supports this. For example, one study that tracked 200 people over a period of two years found out that 77% maintained their pledge for 1 week, 50% kept up for 6 months but only 19% managed to keep up for two years!

So, why am I here? I’m just a guy, standing in front of his readers, asking them to take him seriously about his resolutions.

That’s because I believe in accountability, and I want to test that for myself. I recently watched Michael Hyatt’s presentation of his “5 Days to Your Best Year Ever” course and it struck a chord. And although I didn’t go through the course (maybe next year), I want to take a more directed approach. After all, that’s what I talked about in my post about values and committed action in parenting.

I launched this site roughly six weeks ago (after some months in planning-mode) and I love every minute I’m working on it. The issues I’m writing about mean so much to me, that I feel privileged every time someone reads my posts, comments or subscribes to my mailing list.

I’ve been writing things on the web for more than a decade but I realized that for the first time I’m writing about my life’s calling, which is helping parents have meaningful, loving relationships with their children. That’s what I’m here for. I do this here. I do this with my one-on-one clients. But first and foremost, I do this with myself as a parent.

I’ve been thinking about parenting for a long time before I had my first child. When I entered the world of psychology, a seed was planted in my soul. And that seed grew to the idea that parenting is one of the most important roles our society gives us. And while it may seem obvious, I know that there are still many parents who either don’t see it that way or don’t really know what to do with it. And this is where I feel I can make a change.

So now, as I’m building this place for myself and other parents who feel the need of guidance in turbulent waters, I figured I need to take myself accountable and see where I need to improve myself.

My Parenting Values

As I teach in Your Parenting Values, my email series about taking control of your parenting ship, you need to clarify your values before you set sail. The values show you what kind of person you want to be in each and every area of life. Love, career, personal health etc. As you get in touch with your own personal values, you have a compass to show you the way when things get more hectic.

So in the end, this is what lies under each and every new year’s resolutions. Who do I want to be as a parent? What do I want my kids to think and feel when they remember their childhood 20, 30, 40 years from now? For me, the answer is easy.

I want to be a present dad. I want to be there each and every day of their childhood, as they get up and as they go to sleep and as much as I can in between and as much as they need me.

I want to be able to support them, and that holds a lot. I want to support them financially, of course. But more importantly, I want to be able to support them emotionally. I know that by being their beacon in times of emotional storms, they will find their way and build their resilience, so when they grow up they could find the way on their own and show it to their children.

And I want them to remember unconditional love. I want them to know – in their minds, their hearts, and their guts – that I love them no matter what. No matter what they do or what they say, no matter what they feel, they’ll get our love and support. This is my way to give them the gift of intimate security and this will enable them to be trusting and available in their future intimate relationships.

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OK. Now that my values are clear, it’s time to set some resolutions.

Minimize Screen Time

We parents love to talk about our children’s screen time. We either brag that our kids have zero or minimum screen time, or we explain how our kids are only consuming the right kind of media etc.

As a psychologist, I get asked a lot what to do with screens. Parents come to consultations complaining their kids play on their computers or consoles for hours each day. And I get that, I really do. But when we go into the habits of the other members of the family, we usually learn that the parents are doing quite the same.

And it’s easy for us parents to say that we have to be attached to our screens. We have to check our work emails, we have to answer that message, etc. “It’s important for me!”, one father once told me as I asked him why he must have his phone on the dinner table. “Well, that online game your child is playing with his friends? It’s important for him too”, I said.

We tend to notice the faults of others way quicker than we do our own, and so it goes with screen time. I know that I’m on the phone way too much. I’m a present father. I have the privilege to spend more time with my kids than other fathers. And yet, when I’m spending time with them, I tend to check my phone a lot. Sometimes it’s important, but more often than not, it can wait.

So, resolution number one is to reduce my screen time when I’m doing things with my kids.

Keeping Cool and Carrying On

If there’s one thing that I learned in 2018, is that taking care of two kids is way harder than taking care of one. Yeah. Talk about Captain Obvious.

I come from a family of two kids, but my brother is 10 years older than me, so I don’t know the dynamics of having two little kids in the same household. My wife is the same. And at the end of 2017, we had our second child, a little sister to her then 4 years old brother. And although we figured out that 4 years apart would be right for us, I wasn’t prepared for the stresses of having two kids under five under my care.

And when you factor in the temperament of our daughter, who is an awesome kid but a feisty one, it gets a bit tougher.
So, when reflecting on the last year, I realized that I was losing my temper way too often. I’m not one who gets angry easily, not at all, and when it happens to me, I hate that. I feel like shit, I feel I hurt those I swore to take care of and I. Hate. That.

So, I know I got to work on it. Luckily, I don’t recognize this as a huge issue. It doesn’t happen all the time and even when it does, I cool down pretty quickly. In the recent years, I’ve seen good progress in my ability to take a step back from myself and look at what is going on with me at the moment, and take the notch down on my inner stove.

What helped me immensely is a mindfulness practice. I have written last week about the power of mindfulness exercises and in the next year, I want to go back to a more habitual practice. There are many ways to practice mindfulness and my go-to method is a simple Vipassana meditation. If you want my free mindfulness exercises guide, you can download it right here and start your own practice.

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Another tool that I want to use more in the following year is the gratitude journal. I wrote about the benefits of gratitude journaling a couple of weeks ago, and I feel like this is the time to take it myself to a more habitual place. I have a feeling (and the research backs me up) that by journalling my gratitude towards my parenting will help me expand my already positive views and move away from the anger that shows its head.

Resolution number 2: have a better control over my anger.

Time to Move

This is a no-brainer. I’m sure that the most frequent item on new year’s resolutions lists is exercise. Come January, everyone wants to start working out and diet. And I’m sure that this is one of those things that goes out the window first.

But I have to do something about it. I’m going to turn 38 in a couple of months, and this is the year that I felt my body acting up the most. As I told my wife a couple of days ago, “I’m starting to feel my age, and it’s not because of the white hairs popping here and there” (which I love, by the way).

As I’ve said, I have two little ones. And that means my parenting is very very physical. I need to pick up our youngest and her older brother loves tumbling about with me. And I want to be that dad that can keep up with his kids. (To be honest, I want to be that grandpa that can keep up with his grandchildren).

I’ve never been athletic. I hated gym class. But I need to do something to keep myself fit. There was a time that I did some Yoga and it felt great. And there was that time that I tried to work the way up to a 5K run that was also… well, not great but not bad either.

Resolution number 3: Work out more.

Setting SMARTER Goals

OK. So I laid down my three resolutions:

  • Minimize my screen time with the kids
  • Work on managing my temper
  • Getting in some shape

But that’s not enough. Now that I know my values and what I want to achieve, I need to decide how. So I’m gonna use SMARTER goals. Michael Hyatt talks about this with his daughter in one of their podcast episodes. According to them, new year’s resolutions are a great idea but if don’t treat them right, they will fizzle out quickly.

SMARTER goals are

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Risky
  • Time-keyed
  • Exciting
  • Relevant

So instead of just deciding to “minimize screen time with kids”, I need to set a SMARTER goal. That would look like this:

I will minimize my smartphone use in the hours I’m with my kids, ie 6-8 AM and 4-8 PM. During those hours I will minimize social media check to 10 minutes tops. I will allow myself to go through my emails just to see if there is something important. The phone will be in silent mode so as not to interrupt our play time.

That’s a specific goal. It’s measurable (I’m going to use an app to track my phone usage). I think it’s attainable and relevant as well. It’s time-keyed. But is it exciting and risky? It is exciting to think that I’ll have a more present connection with my kids. And by risky, they mean that’s supposed to take you out of your comfort zone. So it’s not THAT risky for me, but I do think I’ll need to deal with the need to grab my phone every once in a while.

Ok, resolution number 2 – working on my temper. As you recall, I’m going to tackle this with mindfulness and gratitude practice. So: I’m going to write a parenting gratitude journal every night. I will write at least 3 things I’m grateful for on that day, each day.

I will also work to establish a short meditation practice. For the following 3 months, I will practice 10 minutes of meditation 3 times a week.

Let’s move to resolution number 3 – get in shape. This is the toughest for me because I don’t like to exercise, so there’s not much of an immediate incentive. So, to keep things attainable, I’m going to start easy.

For the following 3 months, I will have a short indoor exercise, using YouTube videos, for 3-4 times a week. Each session will last about 10 minutes of high-intensive exercise or a Yoga session.

That’s it! To tell you the truth, even writing it down and publishing my resolution’s like this does something. It’s a mixture of excitement and trepidation. What if I won’t be able to keep up? What if I’m one of those who forfeit their resolutions come February?
So I’m posting this here and putting a reminder to check myself each month and share with you how’s it going. I’ll be sharing my progress in my Instagram account and Facebook page so be sure to follow me there.

How About You?

Are you going to set some New Year’s Resolutions for 2019? Either in your parenting or other areas of life? Share them with me in the comments below👇 Let’s all be accountable together!

Have a wonderful 2019, dear readers. I appreciate each and every one of you and wish you the best year ever. Next week there will be no post, and the next one will be published on January 2019 and it’s gonna be a real good one so stick around. Join my mailing list down below to get new post notification and other great content that I have to offer.

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