Your hands grip the wheel as if holding on for dear life, every inch of your body is ready for fight or flight, your eyes look angrily ahead, focusing intensely on the bumper in front of you and certain that the person inside is taking delight in your discomfort. The tension that has accumulated in your body through the day is intensifying by magnitudes as you honk the horn, thinking about how you will get dinner ready in time, manage the homework agenda, and complete the house-work. If this sounds familiar, it may be time for a reality check. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. Enjoying our lives is not something that will happen someday when we have time. These six resolutions have the capacity to bring more joy and less stress into your life. Choose one every 2 months for the next year and see for yourself!
1. “I will be at home when I am at home”
How often during the evening and weekend hours are you thinking about work, friends, or drama that exists outside of the home? Being able to ‘be where you are’ will help your children to know that you are truly there for them. Babies learn through observing in meticulous detail, taking in everything like little sponges. They notice subtleties of body language and facial expression and quickly learn what those expressions mean. As they grow older, this skill becomes second nature. If preoccupied, one may inadvertently send the message, “You are not as important as other things in my life.” Or, “Your needs are not important.” It takes practice, but focusing the attention on what is happening in front of you is a very rewarding experience for everybody involved.
2. “I will teach by example”
Have you ever used the phrase, “Do as I say, not as I do”? Even if we have not actually said those words, many of us expect our children to do just that. Whether it is using curse words, shirking our responsibilities, or overindulging in television, computer, or sweets; we sometimes hold our children to even higher standards than we hold for ourselves. An added benefit of this resolution is that it may lead to more empathy when your child does make a mistake.
3. “I will take an interest in my child’s heart and mind”
What does your child love? What does he think about? If your child is interested in basketball, learn about the game and be sure to attend events that he is involved in. If she likes art, take her to an art museum, look up art ‘how to’ articles and books. Most importantly, encourage and support them in THEIR interests. At times parents become overly concerned about areas in which their children do not excel and overlook those areas in which they do or have great potential for. Taking an active role in their interests means letting them know that you love who they are. Make an honest effort to hear your child when he says that something bothers him; being sure to validate his feelings but also taking care not to blow things out of proportion.
4. “I will take my daily chill pill”
Relax, Superwoman. If you do not get the laundry done tonight, it will be there tomorrow. If little Billy tracks mud over your freshly mopped floor, ask him to clean it up. Most of the daily stress that leads to turmoil within our families and our homes are things of little significance. When you are stewing about some issue; ask yourself if this will be important in a year. If it is not important in a year, how important is it really right now? Take time to breathe before reacting. Being able to laugh at yourself makes life easier, lighter, and more enlightening.
5. “I will take care of myself so that I can take care of them”
Do you find yourself frequently angry or stressed out? Do you have unresolved issues from your own childhood that are plaguing you? Areas of your life that need work that keep getting swept under the rug? Do you neglect your own health while attempting to care for that of your family members? Struggles with things such as weight, self-esteem, alcohol or substance abuse, unchecked chronic health conditions, etc can be a disservice to yourself and the entire family. Taking care of yourself has countless rewards to your family. For starters, you are modeling that health is important. Once you begin to value yourself, others will value you as well. The house-hold is as a living organism; when any part of the organism is ill, the entire organism becomes ill. Being healthier will make you happier. When you are happier, your home is happier.
6. “I will follow through”
“If you do not clean up your mess, I will take away your toys and give them to a child who will appreciate them!”, “If you cannot be quiet and stop fighting with your sister, you will walk home!”, “You missed your curfew again! You are grounded for 3 months with all privileges revoked!” Sound familiar? Threats such as these give parents a momentary feeling of control over the seemingly uncontrollable frustration that is surfacing. The problem is that the child knows, because her parents have taught her that there are no real consequences to her behavior. Communicate clearly with your child what your expectation is. Be sure that the expectation is reasonable. Give the child a set number of ‘warnings’ that remain consistent. “This is your first warning. You only have one more then there will be a consequence. You have 2 minutes to begin cleaning up your toys.” Be sure that consequences are clearly explained to your child and that he understands what will happen if his behavior does not change. “You did not clean up your toys after your second warning. Now the toys will stay on the shelf for a week and you will not be able to play with them.” Be sure that the child understands the reason behind the rule, “If your toys are on the floor, someone may trip on them and fall.” Consistency and love are the keys to effective discipline. An honest look at whether the discipline is for the benefit of the child or for the benefit of the parent will help in determining the appropriateness.