As you look forward to the year ahead, I am sure that like many others you have made resolutions and hope to keep to at least some of them. Parents have a the most responsible job in the world because your every action, gesture and word impacts on your children. When you stop to think about that, it is quite mind-blowing.
There is no off duty for parents even if you have time alone or time away to look after your own needs. A well run parenting course provides terrific learning and support. But those opportunities aside, there is no annual refresher or self-check test for parents.
That is why I ask the question in January: “What resolutions have you made for your children?” How you have answered that question is important.
Often people make plans or hopes for what they want their children to achieve. Today, I am asking you to also consider your parenting style can be more powerful.
Just as children begin learning words, numbers and colours at home when a parent counts potatoes into the red pot, children also learn far more enduring lessons of character and behaviour from noticing what their parents say and do.
In the next few weeks, a traditionally quiet time for most of us, parents could enhance what they do by observing and noticing how you engage with your children.
If that sounds daft, consider giving it a try. If you are lucky to have a supportive partner or friend, ask for their honest comment. None of us easily realise how we sound when cross, irritated or angry. Few of us easily accept the impact of a tone of voice and how it communicates.
Parents cannot be perfect. In fact, if you get it right 75% of the time, you are doing the best anyone can do. Not getting it right the rest of the time gives your children a chance to see you make a mistake but also put it right.
Repairing what does not work out is as important a lesson for your children as correcting their faults or affirming something you are glad to have seen them say or do.
However, parents have to try to succeed at being bigger, wiser and in control.
One way to help achieve secure parenting is through warmth which creates the best possible conditions for a parent to affirm what is right and good. It also makes it easier for a child to accept when you say no or have to be strict about something.
It may sound strange to say this but many parents are not able to correct their children or say no except when the matter is seriously important. Kids who are not used to being told no or to getting correction find that really hard.
Kids need to be corrected warmly over small things and affirmed for the tiniest of good deeds. Ensuring that you do it with warmth in your voice over things that don’t matter so much will make it easier for you to be taken seriously when the stakes are high.
Of course, all of us have been formed by the relationships we have had growing up and how our parents or carers chided and affirmed us. If noticing how you interact is hard to achieve, consider what your own relationship with parents was like when you were growing up.
Try to do this from your memory of what it was like to be four years of age and older. It can be very instructive and often helps us to understand why we sometimes do and say things in ways we regret but also in ways that are just lovely.
Getting it right is a matter of balance. Our children will grow up to be independent but that is a task not easily learned and is a subject for another day.
For now, take time out to notice and be aware but be wise enough to give yourself a break so tiredness does not set in. Parents who take care of themselves will take better care of their kids too. May we all experience kindness in whatever 2017 brings.