At the beginning of each New Year, we begin to reflect on the year past and think about positive changes for the future. These positive changes are often called our New Year resolutions. The top five resolutions for this year include losing weight, getting fit, quitting smoking, get out of debt, and be less stressed. Notice that being a better parent doesn’t even fall in the top five. I propose that parents consider including some of these tips in 2014.
1. Use the good neighbor policy – When your child makes a mistake; think about how you would handle it if it were your neighbor’s child. Never discipline your child harsher than you would your neighbors, and remember a good dose of empathy goes a long way!
2. Be consistent – When children are misbehaving, it is usually because it is working for them. Think about why you go over the speed limit. You may or may not get caught or get a ticket. Inconsistency leads to misbehavior and mistrust.
3. Have family meals together – Turn the television and phone off, go to the table and sit down as a family. Family meal times are important for children to build a sense of security and family unit. Family meals provide opportunities to find out about your child’s day.
4. Limit screen time – Screen time includes the television, computer, tablets, and laptops. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation children 8-18 years old devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes using entertainment media in a typical day. There are some good educational purposes to technology, but it is no substitute for creativity and play. One hour or less a day is a good standard to adhere to.
5. Get back to nature – Children need to spend time outdoors every single day. Many schools have completely done away with outdoor time. Children who play outside are more physically active, more creative in their play, less aggressive and show better concentration (Burdette and Whitaker, 2005; Ginsburg et all.,2007))
6. Begin early building a strong support system for your child and family – Support systems can be built through church, close friends with children, sports, etc. As your children grow into teenagers, you will know their friends and families if you started building those relationships when they were young.
7. Strengthen your relationship with your children – Remember that being a parent is the most important job that you will ever have. Take advantage of these early years to build a relationship with your child. It will make your life a lot easier once they are teenagers and you will have someone to take care of you in your old age.
8. Build a healthy relationship with the child’s other parent. Have regular date nights; avoid arguing in front of your children. If you are not with the other parent, be sure to NEVER talk negative about them in front of the child.
9. Be present – There are so many distractions today and one of the biggest is our cell phone. Have you ever had your child to ask you if you are listening? That’s a sure sign that you need to put the cell phone down and be present in your child’s life.
100. Have fun – So often as parents, we get wrapped up in the day-to-day routines and forgot to have fun with our children. Play, have fun, and laugh more!
11. Read more with your children and require them to read – Reading increases your child’s vocabulary, strengthens their literacy skills, and gives you an opportunity to bond with your child. Instill a passion for reading in your child. “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” – Emilie Buchwald
12. Be your child’s hero – Parents need to be the soft place for their children to land. Can your children count on you to protect them, take up for them, encourage them, and save them from this cruel world?
13. Show your child you are crazy about them – Be the person that Bronfenbrenner describes, “Every child deserves at least one person who is really crazy about him or her.”
14. Make time for yourself! A good friend of mine once told me that it would never be about me until I made it about me. Make it about you sometimes.
Norma Honeycutt, Executive Director
Norma Honeycutt is the Executive Director of Partners In Learning Child Development & Family Resource Center. Norma is one of the states strongest advocates for children with special needs serving on boards and commissions including the North Carolina Child Care Commission, Rowan County NCPreK Advisory Committee, and Rowan County Local Interagency Coordinating Council. Norma is also a CBRS therapist and facilitates support groups, activities, and other programs for families of children with special needs.