3 resolutions for a happier family in 2012

Jan. 1, 2012 at 1:00 AM ET

What’s on your plate for 2012? Many of us have the best intentions of cutting back on potato chips or Facebook time, but how about resolving to nix all the yelling, whining and power struggles that happen every day in our homes? Sound tricky? It’s not — and it’ll require no more effort than all of those trips to the gym you mean to make.

No matter what your family dynamic sounds like, you really can make your home a more harmonious place within a few days. With a few tweaks to your parenting style, your kids will be tuning you in instead of out, completing their homework and going to bed without a battle. Best of all, you’ll be having fun parenting — and bringing out the very best in your kids!

Three New Year’s resolutions for more successful parenting:

Resolution #1: I resolve to get everyone helping out around the house.

Tired of the endless nagging it takes to get your kids to pitch in on even the smallest task? In 2012, make nagging a thing of the past. Instead, hold a family meeting to divvy up the responsibilities. Even 3-year-olds can help sort socks and set the table, while a 12-year-old can clean a bathroom or mow the lawn. Then, hold them accountable using appropriate consequences. Not only does this kind of system help take the load off your back, but your children will pick up valuable skills and benefit from feeling capable and independent. You’ll love having a more orderly house, and the whole family will learn to operate as a team.

Need help enforcing cooperation and getting the chores done? Read on to see how a simple routine can take all the reminding and negotiating out of your family’s household responsibilities.

Resolution #2: I resolve to make better use of routines.

Some parents struggle with holding kids to bedtime and morning routines — but savvy parents will use them to the whole family’s advantage in 2012. The key is to structure the routine so that all the “business” gets finished before the “fun.” For instance, if you have trouble getting kids out the door in the morning, refuse to dish up toast or eggs until beds are made, hair is brushed and backpacks are by the door. Dawdlers or protesters may end up missing breakfast—but you can be sure it won’t happen more than once or twice before they get the picture.

It works for homework, chores and bedtime, too: tell your kids, “When your homework and family responsibilities are finished, then you can use your phone,” or, “When your teeth are brushed and you’re in your pajamas, then we can read stories.” Set time limits as needed, and post the routine where kids can see it (use pictures for pre-readers) so there’s no excuse not to follow through. And voila! No more nagging.

Resolution #3: I resolve to spend one-on-one time with each child every day.

Here’s the fun part — and the most important resolution you can make. By spending even 10 minutes (but more is better!) with each kid every day in 2012, getting into their world, you can foster cooperation and truly enjoy being a parent. Let your child pick the activity (you might find yourself constructing dinosaurs out of Play-Doh, or wearing a tiara, but that’s okay!), and make sure there are no interruptions from other family members or your phone. You’ll love the emotional connections you’ll build—and also the reduction in negative behavior you see as she realizes she doesn’t have to compete for your attention. Remember that the most important thing to your child is you.

In 2012, resolve to make positive changes in your family — and get results you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. For easy to implement strategies for happier families and well-behaved kids, follow Positive Parenting Solutions on Facebook.