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Parenting Resolutions

Resolve to be a more effective parent this year

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Updated December 30, 2009

We often hear of New Year's Resolutions for people to start exercising more, eat healthier, stop smoking. But this year, how about adding some resolutions to help make you a more effective parent?

Is there anything you would like to, or need to, change about your parenting techniques?

Is there a behavior or habit of your child that you wish you could help change?

Here are some parenting resolutions that you may consider making to help your child lead a healthy and happy life:

Be A Good Role Model

The New Year's Resolutions that you set for yourself are important. Most parents do not realize the amount of influence they have over their children.

Children are more likely to smoke, have an unhealthy diet, not wear a bicycle helmet or seatbelts, and be overweight if one or both parents have these bad habits.

In addition to avoiding bad habits, you also want to model good behaviors and activities, such as sharing, not letting your temper get out of control, not making racist or insensitive comments about other people, and teaching your children how to handle frustration.

Effective Discipline

Learning to effectively discipline your children is important, both to teach them how to behave and to minimize bad behaviors. Remember that discipline and punishment are not the same thing. If you are having problems disciplining your child, then get some help. All children are different, and what works for one may not work for another, so you may not be doing anything wrong, but you may need to learn some alternative methods.

Also remember that teaching is a big part of discipline. If your older child hits or has a tantrum, a time-out or taking away a privilege may let him know that it wasn't the right thing to do, but he won't know what is the right thing unless you show him. Take some time after your child gets in trouble to explain or model a better or more appropriate behavior.

Most importantly, when your child gets in trouble, stay calm, avoid physical punishment, be consistent, and learn to reward and praise good behavior to reinforce it.

Learn to Understand Your Child

Do you understand why your child does the things he does?

Why does a toddler look at you and then hit his brother or throw something on the floor? Doesn't he know it is wrong? Maybe, but he likely isn't doing it to be mean or bad. Most children try to explore their limits and see what they can do. It is a normal part of development, and if you understand your child's reasoning, you are less likely to get mad and give too big a reaction, which may reinforce a bad behavior.

Why does your older child always leave her clothes on the floor? Doesn't she know she is going to get in trouble? It depends on how you handle it, as to whether or not she will learn to stop doing it. How do you handle a situation like this? Do you just yell a few times and constantly remind her to pick up her clothes? Does it turn into a fight? Unless you are firm and consistent and avoid negative reinforcement, you are unlikely to fix a problem like this. Often, just delaying a disliked chore, like cleaning up her room, even if it is just for a few minutes or hours, can reinforce a child's behavior. So what should you do? It can be helpful if you just calming remind her to pick up her clothes. If she still doesn't do it, then remind her again and tell her that if she doesn't do it, then you will, and she won't be able to wear them again for a few weeks or months. If she still doesn't pick them up, then offer no more reminders or discussion. Just calmly pick up her clothes and put them away for the set amount of time. If it is a favorite shirt or sweater, not being able to wear it should teach her to be more mindful of her chores.

Many parents often unknowingly reinforce their child's bad behaviors by providing too much negative attention, not enough positive attention and by being inconsistent. If you don't understand why your child does what he does, and your discipline techniques aren't working, then get some professional help, especially if the behaviors are getting 'out of control' or are causing tension in the family.

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