It’s mid-January. So, how goes your resolution to start fresh on parenting?
If you’re struggling to get the kids back on track with their behavior and responsibilities in the New Year, you’re not the only one. We all enjoyed a holiday season of broken rules, schedules, chaos and indulgence — and we wouldn’t change a thing. But now, just weeks into the New Year, it feels like we already need a complete overhaul. Don't give up; consider a 2015 parenting reboot. These five strategies can get your family back on track.
1. Sleep matters — a lot. Kids would never admit it, but they need regular bedtimes and plenty of sleep to be at their best. These key components to a healthy, calm lifestyle, however, are sometimes the first things we let go when we’re celebrating the holiday season, and they are the most daunting piece to restore in January.
How do we back up bedtime from the late hours we’ve grown used to keeping? Take note that most kids need more sleep than they’re getting. The most effective way to get your kids more sleep is to keep bedtimes early and consistent throughout the week, without much more than a 15-minute difference on the weekends. If you give in to a late bedtime once, kids will think the hour on the clock is always up for negotiation.
Once you’ve reset bedtimes, refresh your evening routine and structure it so that the not-so-fun stuff (brushing teeth, picking out an outfit for the next day) comes before the good stuff (reading with Mom or Dad until lights out at 8:30). Consider this a When-Then Routine, and it can revolutionize all the tricky times of the day, such as when your child needs to study his French verbs, practice his piano, or simply roll out of bed. Just be sure that the very last item in the routine — enjoying media time, perhaps, or playing with friends — can only happen after everything else is done. Start small by revamping one routine at a time. Once you have bedtimes streamlined, for instance, move on to mornings. Stick to the routine and soon your kids will take control of their own schedules, with much less push-back from them and no nagging from you.
2. Demonstrate the behavior you want to see. Most of us don’t know it, but we parents do a lot of things that contribute to our kids’ bad behavior. We give in to their whining, we “forget” to follow through on consequences and we bring our smartphones to the dinner table even while banning theirs. Like it or not, kids pay much more attention to what we do than what we say, so when we command one thing and do another (like yelling at them for yelling at their sibling), we send the message that our rules are optional. By deleting these double standards, we’ll get better behavior from our kids.
3. Make time for your kids. Give your kids the gift of uninterrupted time with you every day. This is the Mind, Body and Soul Time tool, and with it you’ll commit to spending a small amount of one-on-one quality time with each child, at least once a day. Get into their world, whether by rehashing sports scores in the car or dressing up dolls in the latest fashions.As much as possible, let them decide how you spend your special time together. Providing your kids positive attention will work wonders in cutting back on their negative, attention-seeking behaviors, and you will face less whining, tantrums and annoying negotiating.
4. Task every kid with a job (or two). Remember last year when your kids never wanted to help out around the house? Well, some things never change — but that doesn’t mean your kids are exempt from taking on responsibilities at home in 2015. In fact, kiddos of all ages thrive when they feel useful and needed, even if they simply empty trash cans and fold towels. What’s more, when you divvy up the work, you’ll feel less harried and better able to enjoy your family.
To get started, consider this contributions by age list and pick a few jobs for each of your kids. Then, train each child thoroughly in any new skills, keeping in mind they might prefer to scrub the shower in their swimsuit, or Swiffer floors instead of dusting baseboards. Once they’re able to handle the job on their own, make it official and required by adding it to a When-Then Routine, or setting up in advance a reasonable consequence if the task doesn’t get finished. Voila! Your kids are pitching in — and once they see that you’re not going to let them wiggle out of their new responsibility, they’ll do it without pitching a fit as well.
Once one skill is mastered, consider rotating jobs on a monthly basis, and letting them have a say in which tasks they undertake.
5. Prioritize weekly family meetings. A new year often means a new hockey schedule, new gymnastics classes or a changed-up carpool — and all these arrangements could take a team of professionals to manage. Even those of us facing the same old routines would probably appreciate a little streamlining to ensure everyone is where they need to be at the right time. That’s where a family meeting comes in. Set aside a few minutes each week at a regular time, such as Sunday evenings, to meet as a family and get on the same page when it comes to everything from work schedules to big games to how to keep the family dog out of the kitchen garbage. Assign rotating jobs to each member of the family (Meeting Leader, Note Taker, Snack Server, etc.), provide refreshments and make it fun. Not only will you connect as a family, but your kids will start stepping up to take on more responsibility — and no one will be left behind at swimming practice again.
Even if the New Year has left you feeling frazzled, there’s no need to hit the panic button. Restart 2015 with these tips and tools, and get ready for your most peaceful, and most enjoyable, year ever.
Today Parents contributor 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." Her next book, "The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World," will be released in August 2015. Learn new parenting tools and tips as Amy’s guest in an upcoming webinar.