By The Calgary Herald - January 7, 2008New Year's Resolutions for Well-meaning Parents

There's one thing you can count on as a parent: you're going to screw up sometimes. And unless you're extremely well-disciplined, it's inevitable that patterns of imperfect parenting will emerge.

The list of my deficiencies is extensive. Here's a very small sample:

  • Because I'm generally not interested in sports, my kids don't get enough exposure to athletics.
  • My need for family companionship is entirely filled by my wife and kids. Therefore, I tend to ignore our other relatives, which isn't good for the kids or the rest of the clan.
  • I'm a doting dad, but I lack patience and imagination. Therefore, a sharp rebuke and a scary glower are over-used weapons in my parenting arsenal.

That's why I've decided to try something new this year. Instead of making New Year's resolutions to lose weight or watch less TV (usually about as successful as my pledges to re-grow hair), I've decided to resolve to be a better parent, in the categories listed above.

This year, I'll resolve to put my kids into sports programs. I'll make more of an effort to involve grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in our lives and I'll be a more patient and positive parent.

The last resolution on that list is one that many Calgarian parents would do well to adopt, says Kelly Moroz of Moroz Child Psychology Group. "There are two ways to change your kids' behaviour. You can resort to removing privileges and nagging, or to attempt to catch your kids when they're doing things the right way and praise them," he says.

He recommends emphasizing positive reinforcement over punishment in 2008. Besides being more pleasant for both you and your children, it's more effective. "Research tells us this will not only lead to a more permanent change in behaviour, but it will also make you more the apple of your son or daughter's eye. They're more likely to do more things for you out of that situation."

This isn't always easily executed, of course. It doesn't come naturally to compliment people for doing what's expected of them. Not too many bosses make a habit of saying "thanks for doing your job," after all.

But it's reasonably simple to create opportunities to praise your kids, Moroz says. "It's a good idea to take 10 or 15 minutes each day, and just play a game with a child. Not giving any instructions, but taking on the role of a sports commentator -- commenting on the game, rather than controlling it. That kind of positive attention by parents often decreases the need for negative attention-seeking behaviours."

Moroz recommends making specific resolutions, rather than declaring grand and nebulous good intentions without plans for implementation.
"It's nice to have a global resolution like, 'I'm going to spend more time with my kids,' but these are often unsuccessful. The only way it can work is if people make much more short-term resolutions within the resolution.
"Rather than saying 'I'm going to work less,' they might have to be more concrete about exactly how much less they plan on working on a week by week basis. Actually plan it in your calendar for the next couple of weeks.

Literature     5