'Tis the season for New Year's resolutions. Sure, they're cliche, and you may break them faster than you can say "February." But admit it: some part of you still believes in new years and new beginnings, in another chance to make things better, in the magic of a new chapter opened on January 1st.
And there's nothing we want to improve more than our parenting. Part of being a mom or dad is the constant, crushing feeling of parental inadequacy. Every time you screw up, you worry how Junior will afford both crushing student loan debt and years of therapy. Newsflash: you probably don't suck too badly. But we can always do better in 2015. Here are some parenting resolutions worth at least trying to keep:
1. Yell less.
It's hard to keep a normal tone when Junior's scrawling the wall with indelible Sharpie marker. Yelling's hard to stop, especially if your parents were yellers (like practically everyone's). Resolve to break that cycle this year. Take deep breaths, whisper instead of scream, and remember: yelling only guarantees they'll hear you louder.
2. Praise more.
You probably live containing the chaos of lost shoes and spilled milk and dinnertime and laundry. It's easy to forget the positive in between the missing socks. "Wow, you worked hard on that!" can mean the world to a kid, especially if you've spent the morning yelling at him about the indelible Sharpie on the wall.
3. Give more hugs.
It's also easy to forget the simple act of hugging. How often do you touch your kids? Oxytocin from good big hug can help reset a crappy day, or get you both through another manic Monday morning.
4. Say "I love you" every single morning and every single night.
Kids need to hear you say the words -- especially more than once, especially out of the blue, and especially in front of their friends. Maybe not the last part. That's just for your own entertainment.
5. Put down the phone.
Do not do something drastic like count how many times per day you log onto Facebook. That would just be depressing. Instead, put down your phone and really listen: at the breakfast table, during dinner, at stoplights. Because you do check your phone at stoplights, don't you?
6. Pick one thing to stop nagging about.
Maybe he lives out of the clothes basket instead of his drawers. Maybe you can't see the floor of her bedroom. Maybe he chews with his mouth open, or leaves the toilet seat up, or bites his nails to stubs. Pick something that's merely annoying and decide to let it go. As long as it isn't causing bodily harm or grossing out the general public, put the nagging on pause.
7. Keep the car clean.
By "car," I mean "the rolling Chik-fil-A cup repository."
8. Get outside as a family.
Soccer practice doesn't count, people. Spending time outdoors really can make you healthier -- and help to put your hectic life on pause. Leave your phone in the car and pick an activity everyone can enjoy. And remember: no one actually likes rollerblading.
9. Read more as a family.
You can never read too much. Maybe it means mom and dad doing Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? together, or switching up poems from A Light in the Attic. Or maybe it means a family book club. In these hectic times, that could mean you re-read The Scarlet Letter with your high school sophomore. It's good for you, dammit. And maybe you'll like it this time around.
10. Stop saying "no."
Is it dangerous? Is it possibly damaging to people or property? Does it seriously impact the family running smoothly? If not, then try saying yes. That might mean your toddler goes to Trader Joe's dressed as Batman, your 5-year-old wears two different shoes, or your high schooler spends his entire allowance on video games. But that's OK -- the Batman costume will go away. Knowing that mom or dad respects his choices? That will stick around.
11. Focus on experiences rather than things.
Get rid of the toys no one plays with, the clothes no one wears, and the furniture no one likes. Then spend your money on doing, rather than accumulating. Your kids would much rather go to Disney World than get a new couch. Seriously. Just ask them.
What are your parenting resolutions for 2015?