We've all known people who've made goals at the beginning of a new year, but what about New Year's resolutions for parenting, specifically? Should we be making them? If so, what might they look like?
First, some science. Do New Year's Resolutions even work according to doctors who've studied people's habits? According to this video, they absolutely do---when they're done right. And they're more likely to work when we make them at the beginning of the new year! Interesting, isn't it?
With that out of the way, let's move forward.
Indeed, it's a bit unconventional to have parenting goals as New Year's resolutions. According to GoSkills.com, some of the most common New Year's resolutions are these:
Those are all well and good, but I wonder about the specifics of spending more time with family and friends. For those of us with kids, what should that look like, exactly?
If you use the SMART goals model, it means goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. Although people often use this model for business, it's absolutely possible to use it at home, too, for parenting goals. The more specific we are, the better (although goals relating to emotions can go either way since they address different needs).
What is your purpose as Mom or Dad? Do you want to raise a baby with respect, and help that baby learn social, emotional, and academic skills as he or she moves through childhood? What is discipline to you---and how can you practice what you preach? What will help your child grow into a happy and healthy adult? Is there anything you can do now to foster a lifelong and positive relationship? Are your parenting goals about yourself as a parent or about your child?
All of these questions can prompt ideas for your parenting goals.
Here, some parenting writers we know share resolutions they've made to "up" their family game. I love how they all approach parenting goals from different angles, but they all have one theme in common: connection.
I'm striving to compartmentalize more. Last year, I snuck in work whenever I could while raising and homeschooling my child. That often left me feeling like I was rarely fully with her or fully working. So, I'm dedicating specific time each day to working. When I'm done, I can walk away knowing it had my full attention and I don't need to worry about my to-do list when I'm with my child. She'll get more of Mama back this way and I'll be much more engaged with her.
"My resolution...is to be a well balanced mom. As I welcome my twins into the world, I resolve myself to do everything I can to provide a positive, safe environment for them. This includes taking care of my own physical and mental wellbeing, prioritizing my marriage and accepting help from friends and family. Most importantly, this means not beating myself up over small things and realizing that while I may not be a perfect mother, I am good enough."
"Setting New Year's resolutions or intentions are super important for our growth as parents. When we set goals or intentions for the new year, a couple amazing things happen. One we stop and reflect on the past year, the positive AND the negative, and we can learn from our past parenting. And two, setting goals going forward helps us to be more intentional in our parenting and family time. This past year, I set a few family goals. I worked on getting us to sit down at the table for dinner more often. And I helped one of my 'creative' kids on building tidying habits. Neither did I do perfectly, but setting the goals put me closer to where I want to be as a parent!"
"One of the things I found when becoming a parent is that all my time and energy tends to be devoted to caring for my child, myself or the house. This has left little time for maintaining the friendships in my life. So this year my New Year's Resolution is to send my nearest and
dearest birthday cards on their birthday. I can't spend as much time with them as I used to but I still want them to know that I care about them and I am thinking of them."
"...I think if I were to change anything about this past year, it would be to be more intentional about teaching my children about God. We go to church regularly and pray at meals, but I want to make it a habit of talking to my children about our faith outside of church and start conversations about faith on a regular basis. I want to do as Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says 'These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.'"
Well, yes. They are. You can plan for and make change anytime you want to. There's certainly never a bad time to become a better parent. There are many positive parenting books, parenting educators who offer consultations, positive parenting Facebook groups, and therapists available to help you every step of the way. We're here for you!
We all know parenting isn't always easy. It takes focus and patience daily; it's a job like no other. But how you do as a parent will likely matter more than almost anything else you do in life (and parenting absolutely should be fun more often than it's not). We're all learning; we're safe to seek helpful advice when we need it. Our families need us and we love them dearly. We really want to do our best for them however we can.
Doing our best for them might mean setting big goals, like breaking a screen addiction or another habit that's not serving our families or ourselves well. Or it might mean making small changes, like making a point to call Grandma twice a week instead of just once. No matter your goal (and it's okay to have more than one), remember that you're the one setting it, so you get to decide if it's working for you after you start.
Do give the actions that support your parenting goals some time to stick, however. After all, it takes between 18 and 254 days to form a new habit, and on average 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic (source). Once you allow enough time to try it, it's perfectly fine to tweak whatever you need to based on what's working for your family.