By Renee Mattson
The turn of every new year is a wonderful time to pause and reconnect to what matters most. Our parent coaches at Child in Bloom receive the most phone calls in the beginning of January once the kiddos have gone back to school. Parents have spent two weeks or so with their children, and they are at their wits end with their child’s behavior. They recognize that things might be out of sync and might need a reboot. The parents could rush back into the hubbub that back to school presents, or they could pause once the kids are out the door and start to think about how they want to reboot their family rules, priorities and values. Pausing like this and resolving to do these crucial things can change the tone of your family life in 2018:
Make time for family dinner: It is the one single way to provide the structure and warmth that children crave and solid families need as a home base. Read this New York Times article to find out more about the benefits of planned meals. Even if it’s Sunday dinner once a week or regular time around the breakfast table, when we resolve to have regular meals together we create time to connect as a family and provide the systems and order they need to be supported. Regular meal time can can literally change the face of your family for good.
Find moments that are faith lessons and use them to teach, model and practice what is spiritually important and overall good choice-making. If you are interested in learning more about the development of spirituality in children (preschool to adolescent), read The Spiritual Child. This book mentions that children of all stages have a natural curiosity for spirituality. As parents, we can tap into it this and use it as a guide to help them find their way. Add to your family's structure and warmth by adding to your spiritual rituals and routines: adding in regular prayer time, sharing positive stories from the newspaper, learning about your faith together or listening to what your child has learned at school in regards to faith.
Process over Product: It’s more important to focus on the process than the final score of a game or the final grade on their report card. Make activities and learning experiences really count by allowing meaningful lessons to spring forth from the mistakes along the way and the life lessons they learned as their went through the process. Remember they are still growing (even if they are 16 and these bumps in the road are a natural part of the growing. If we harp too much on the mistakes and fail to recognize the tiny bits of progress we might lose out on crucial moments of connection, and they may begin to assume if they aren’t perfect it will never be good enough so why bother trying.
Decide what is not acceptable and stick with it. Take time to decide what the zero tolerance behaviors in your home are and work to rid your day-to-day interactions of the those things. (If you are having a hard time coming up a with a list of what these might be stick to our three basic rules: no hurting, no fussing, no disrespect). Once you decide what is not acceptable, make a plan to teach and encourage the opposite behavior that you would like your child to do instead. These opposite behaviors become replacement behaviors that are socially acceptable and help them function better in your home and their social life.
What is the one thing that has to change? Decide what is the most pressing behavior or bump in the road that HAS to change and make a plan to make it go away.
Life with kids is so busy but it is important to PAUSE and reflect on what matters most. We do this for ourselves at the new year planning how we will eat better, save more money, exercise more. While you are at it, pause and really think about how you will weave your priorities and family values into your minute-by-minute interactions with your children so you can head in the right direction in 2018.
About the Author
Renee Mattson, M.Ed, founder of Child in Bloom parent coaching and teaching professor at Xavier University School of Education has been a featured presenter at the Early Childhood Education Symposium hosted annually by The Summit Country Day School. Her “Pause for Parenting” talks offer practical strategies on how to be more positive in parenting. Info@childinbloom.com