It's that time of year again; time to take stock and make changes. Instead of pledging yet again to take off extra pounds or cut back on spending, your kids have something else in mind for you. The following are the New Year's resolutions that they'd like you to make -- and keep.
Pay attention to us. When we're little, we want your attention. We think you're amazing! You can do all these really hard things -- and you make it look so easy! So, help us bake cookies or build a blanket fort. Not only will it be a ton of fun now, you'll be making deposits into the ol' parenting bank. Those deposits will come in handy soon enough because when we get older, we're going to pull away some (or a lot). That's just the natural progression of growing up. If you don't take the time to develop a strong relationship with us now, you're going to be out of luck then. And in case you're thinking that you simply don't have a minute to spare, ask yourself this: Would you rather spend an hour playing grocery store with us today, or spend untold hours taking our family inventory with a therapist a few years from now while we try to learn how to communicate with each other?
Remember that QT with your laptop doesn't count as QT with us. Not to be too demanding or anything, but it doesn't count as spending time with us if you are completely absorbed with your laptop or iPad. We need to have you present both physically and mentally. We're learning from you how to interact with people. Not to get all "Cat's in the Cradle" on you or anything, but if you're constantly glued to your laptop, don't yell at us in a few years when we're always glued to our cellphones.
Don't stop reading to us. You didn't stop cooking dinner for us once we learned how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich all by ourselves, did you? Similarly, you shouldn't stop reading books to us once we master Cat in the Hat. Reading out loud to us every night is an awesome family activity. Pick books that are harder than the ones we can read all by ourselves. If there are parts that are inappropriate for our age level, you can skip over them. When you read out loud to us, we can share adventures together -- plus we'll have opportunities to talk about issues that arise in the stories. Rather than getting a lecture from you, we'd rather learn your opinions on topics like pride and prejudice while actually reading Pride and Prejudice. And get this: When you read to us, you will be keeping the first two resolutions on this list, so in that way, it earns you triple parenting points!
Don't shoot from the hip. Just because something was done to you when you were a child and you "turned out okay" doesn't necessarily mean it's a practice worth repeating. Frankly, we kids are sick of hearing grown-ups say that. There are plenty of things that your parents did when you were growing up that we don't see you emulating now. You don't cruise around in an Oldsmobile '98 just because Grandma did when you were a kid. So, if you don't mind, put at least as much thought into how you parent us as you did your last car purchase. Decide what you want your overall parenting philosophy to be, come up with reasonable rules and limits for us and then enforce them. It's OK to make exceptions sometimes. But there's a huge difference between the message sent by occasionally waiving rules on the one hand, and not bothering to enforce them at all on the other hand. And trust me, we're taking notes.
Catch us doing something right. We know you're busy and you have a lot on your mind, so sometimes it's easier just to gripe at us when we drop the ball on something. But we want to let you in on a little secret that can help all of our stress levels. When it comes to our behavior, if you want less of the kind that drives you crazy and more of the kind that makes you happy, up the ratio of positive to negative comments. Let us know you notice when we do stuff right. You don't have to wait until we've done something big like cured cancer or gotten straight A's to give us some props. Go ahead and let us know you appreciate it when we start our homework without being told, set the table without complaining or share a cupcake with our little brother. The more positive feedback we get, the more positive behavior you're going to get. And that's not a demand; it's just a law of parenting ju-ju. We can't explain why it is; it just is.
Rather than resolving to get rid of things you don't need, try stockpiling good family vibrations instead. You'll need them soon enough, since we'll be done with the terrible twos and into the terrifying teens faster than you can scream "curfew battles." Make and keep the resolutions above and you'll notice results immediately -- increased family harmony guaranteed.
Happy New Year!