Family Life


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10 Parenting Resolutions You’ll Keep

a family walks in the winter looking happy, the daughter is being lifted by her parents on both sides

You know how it works. On December 31, you vow to be more active, cook healthier meals for your family and not yell at your kids. But by March – at the latest – you’re back to old habits. You’ve stopped hitting the gym – there’s just no time! You’ve ordered pizza for dinner two times in the last week – you didn’t have the ingredients you needed for dinner. And when your kids are arguing over the remote control, you burst into an angry tirade that ends with a high-pitched scream, “Just go to your rooms!”

“People set themselves up for failure,” says Lauren Jawno, certified fitness trainer, nutritionist and lifestyle coach. “We don’t set realistic goals or an appropriate strategy to achieve them. We want a quick fix for all our problems, and when we reach the first point of struggle, we give up. Parenting is a marathon, and it’s hard work,” Lauren says. This year, the thing to remember is that you can’t do everything perfectly every day. “It doesn’t serve anyone well when you’re trying to be Parent of the Year.”

Here’s how you can finally conquer these parenting resolutions once and for all.

1. Stop yelling at my kids

Why you didn’t do it last year: What else can you do when your kids don’t listen?

Why you will do it this year: It’s not practical to tell yourself that you will never yell at your kids. Of course, you will! You are human. But you can tell yourself that instead of yelling as a first resort, you will pause and take three deep breaths before responding to a child who has painted your walls with ketchup. You might just end up yelling less and finding other ways to control your frustration. In some cases, you might even laugh.

2. Prepare healthier snacks and meals for my family

Why you didn’t do it last year: My kids wouldn’t eat vegetables so I stopped preparing them.

Why you will do it this year:
Don’t expect it to happen overnight. “Give them two choices of vegetables at dinner and don’t give up if they don’t like either one,” says Lauren. She suggests getting your kids involved in preparing the food with you. Or why not take them to the grocery store and invite them to select a new fruit or vegetable to try at home? “There are a million other options than broccoli,” says Lauren. “The most important thing is to ensure your kids participate in the process so they have a sense of control. Then, be consistent.”

It’s also important to make healthy eating easy. Have frozen vegetables or home-cooked meals in your freezer for days when you end up having to work late. “Or take some time to plan meals for the week,” says Lauren. “Then stock up on all the items you need to save yourself from trips to the grocery store for those last-minute ingredients.”

3. Have more fun with my kids

Why you didn’t do it last year: Who feels like playing when you’re so caught up in the daily grind – dinner, lessons, homework, bedtime.

Why you will do it this year: Find little ideas that make life less of a grind. Why not eat dessert before dinner? Make a fort with sheets and spend time reading with your kids in the tent. Then, stop multitasking and take time to be in the moment. When you are more relaxed and less distracted, you will be able to spend more time enjoying your family.

4. Stay on budget

Why you didn’t do it last year: Clipping coupons seems like a waste of time.

Why you will do it this year: Instead of making couponclipping a full-time job, try other cost-cutting strategies, such as buying in bulk and forgoing the expensive gym membership. Find less expensive ways to exercise, such as skating at a local rink or tobogganing with your kids. This might also help you achieve your goal to have more fun.

5. Increase my family’s activity level

Why you didn’t do it last year: Ran out of steam when my family refused to cooperate.

Why you will do it this year: “What are your reasons for wanting to get fit or live differently?” asks Lauren. You need to assess why you are setting these goals. You won’t be able to do everything, so decide which goals are the most important to you. Perhaps your son is inactive and you worry about his health. You want to get fit as a way to encourage him to be more active, too.

“If at first your son refuses to go for a walk with you, just keep walking and talk about how much you enjoy it. Invite him to come along and make it a fun experience,” says Lauren. “Don’t give up!” She also recommends interactive fitness video games (try Wii Fit, Nike+ Kinect Training or Just Dance) for days when the weather is uncooperative. “You need to get rid of the ‘all or nothing’ mentality.” In other words, some activity is better than no activity.

6. Make more time for me

Why you didn’t do it last year: I didn’t have time!

Why you will do it this year: Athletes perform better when they make time to rest and recover. It’s the same for parents. “If you don’t make time to rest, you can’t be your best,” says Lauren. Whether it’s going to a movie with your partner, spending an hour getting a massage or reading a good book in a coffee shop, decide what you want to do and then manage your time accordingly. “If you make yourself a priority, you will find a way to make time for yourself,” she says. Figure out what other things can wait, such as cleaning out the garage, so that you can make time for the important stuff – you.

7. Start volunteering with my family

Why you didn’t do it last year: I didn’t know where to begin or how to ensure our efforts would have a big enough impact.

Why you will do it this year: Think about what you and your family might enjoy doing together. Then decide how often you can do it.

“It is more realistic to commit to volunteering once a month than once a day – and it’s better to volunteer once a month than not at all,” says Lauren. The trick is to be practical and consistent rather than fanatical. This way, for instance, if you don’t get to help out at the food bank as often as you intended, you won’t feel like a failure and give up altogether.

8. Be more patient

Why you didn’t do it last year: Patience isn’t really in my nature.

Why you will do it this year: The first step is to put things in perspective and realize that not every day is going to go according to plan. That’s why it’s important to anticipate issues and challenges before they arise and create a backup plan. For example, if you get stuck in traffic and can’t get your daughter to karate on time, don’t lose your cool. Instead of running out of patience and yelling, plan to have a different attitude. Tell yourself, it’s not the end of the world if she is five minutes late for class.

Another way to have more patience? Stop multitasking. “If you focus and pay attention, you will do things better and will have more patience as a result,” says Lauren. These days, we are exposed to so much stimulation that multitasking has become our standard way of operating.

“We all need to learn to slow down along the way, especially when we realize we’re becoming frazzled. This will help us be more relaxed and in the moment. Focus on quality, not quantity.”

9. Stop comparing my kids to the Joneses

Why you didn’t do it last year: Things got too competitive when my neighbour signed their daughter up for piano and Chinese in the same semester!

Why you will do it this year: “It’s important to look at your child’s personality and figure out what they like and what they’re good at so you can bring out the best in them,” says Lauren. If they are introverted, they might like an activity where they can be on their own, like guitar lessons. If they are extroverted, they might like acting class where they can be with other kids. It’s also important to recognize that kids need time to play on their own or with siblings. Thinking that the more you’re doing the better you’ll be just creates pressure to keep up with everyone else. “Just because it works for other families doesn’t mean it’s best for you and your family,” she says.

10. Stop snooping on my child’s Facebook page

Why you didn’t do it last year: How else will I find out what my kids and their friends are up to?

Why you will do it this year: If you’re taking time to be more patient, to make time for yourself, and aren’t yelling as often, you will enjoy your kids more and create more opportunities for your kids to want to talk to you and confide in you. Your kids need some privacy, but all your other efforts will make you feel more relaxed and confident in your abilities. All of a sudden, you won’t feel like you need to snoop. And anyways, who has time these days now that you’re taking some much-needed time for yourself!

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, December 2012.

a man carrying two children

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