Happy New Year, Everyone!
New Year's Day is a time many of us make resolutions. Concerning our kids' habits, however, our hands seem to be tied. We want them to come out of their rooms, spend less time on their phones, stop procrastinating, help out more, and go to sleep earlier, but no matter what we do, they remain their own people, not extensions of their parents. So instead of nagging our children and teens to improve their habits, the best thing that we as parents can do is work on our own parenting. Given my experience as a parent and tutor, I have a few tips that may help.
- Try not to nag. Brainstorm together on other ways to get your kids to do what they are supposed to do. Build in small incentives to help with motivation.
- Spend one-to-one time with each of your children as often as possible, at least for a few minutes several times a week. This may include driving somewhere, doing an errand together, doing a chore together, or having a snack together. By spending time together, putting down devices and really listening to each other, you can build a relationship of trust and friendship.
- Do not give unsolicited advice. Most of the time, your kids just want to talk. You can acknowledge their feelings, like "that must be frustrating" or ask them questions like, "What do you plan to do about that?" But if they don't ask you for advice, they probably don't want it.
- Try not to yell at your kids. Numerous studies have shown that yelling causes children to be anxious and depressed. If you are so distressed that all you can do is yell, it is better to disengage and leave the room.
- Help you children become more independent. Let them make their own decisions and support them, even if you would have handled situations differently. Expect them to get their homework done with only the support they need, do their own laundry, and wake up independently to an alarm (or 2 or 3 if necessary). By the beginning of senior year of high school, the goal should be for them to be doing their own thing with minimal assistance.
Finally, appreciate, love, and support your children for who they are. Praise them for working hard at something, pick your battles, and swallow some of the criticism that is aching to come out. Most important, build relationships of love, trust, and support.