7 Ways I’m Going to Up My Parenting Game This Year

better parent better parent

Great news everyone! This post is not about resolutions for “less screen time,” “putting the phone down” or “being more present.” I need my children to have screen time as much as I need my own phone, which is to say: the way we all need kidneys. And yeah sure we should all also be more present blah blah zzzz, but I often find that my best parenting comes after a long stretch of NOT being present, whether physically or metaphorically, so let’s just give those tired platitudes a break.

So what are my resolutions for the new year? You mean other than to be a better, kinder, gentler, more forgiving person while also being more ambitious, driven, focused and productive? In addition to developing a less-extreme relationship with food and alcohol, sleeping more, gossiping less and doing more to combat climate change? But not related to my resolutions to be more organized, procrastinate less, figure out what I’m going to be when I grow up, develop a system to manage photographs of my children and also take better care of my skin?

Oh right. Sorry. Parenting resolutions.

Honestly, parenting resolutions are hard to make, because most every single night I go to bed resolving to be a better parent the next day – to be more patient, to yell less, to expand my children’s palate, especially when it comes to vegetables, etc. So, given these daily intentions, what’s left for grand end-of-year proclamations?

As with all goals, the more concrete and tangible they are the better, so I’ve tried to distill mine into a meaningful yet achievable set of goals, in order from easiest to hardest.  (Hey, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, amirite??)

  1. Get up earlier every morning. Sometimes I can blame my laziness on having a delicious, warm child snuggled under each arm, but more often than not my laziness is the result of me being lazy. Getting my ass up and out of bed even 15 minutes earlier each day would dramatically cut down on the number of times I yell at my family throughout the morning.
  2. Do a massive book clean-out. If our children’s books were reorganized, rotated and refreshed, we would stop reading the same ones every night. This would result in me enjoying nighttime reading more, which would result in me doing more nighttime reading, which would combat the detrimental cognitive impact of my next resolution, which is to…
  3. Help my kids watch better TV.  I want to devote some actual time to researching “age-appropriate non-brain-decaying television shows” so that my children’s time isn’t always spent watching a rotation of Daniel Tiger/Wild Kratts/Chasing Monsters episodes. (Speaking of, is anyone else deeply attracted to Cyril Chauquet?)
  4. Give my kids more responsibility. Yes, it gets done much faster if I’m the one to set and clear the table and wash the kids’ hair and put dirty clothes in the hamper, etc. But the only way they’re going to learn how to do those things and ultimately become productive members of our household and functioning, independent beings is if they learn. That’s worth a broken plate, lost sock(s) or clump of un-rinsed hair conditioner here and there.
  5. Talk more and better about money. It bothers me how often my children say things like “Can you please get X on your phone?” Although Jeff Bezos is obviously to blame for the majority of this, my kids have no concept that the things I “get” on my phone cost money – and this is because I have not done great job of explaining the concept of money, other than in the proverbial and sarcastic “YOU THINK JURASSIC HOTWHEELS GROW ON TREES???” sense. I’d like to spend more time talking with my kids about how our family earns its money, about prices, and about why wanting something does not and should not translate automatically into getting it.
  6. Schedule less. (But also sometimes more.) OK, pandemic kind of messes with this one. But. I’m making a commitment to not fall into the overscheduling trap that so many of us fall into with elementary school-aged children, because too many sports, lessons and activities take a toll on everyone. As a dear friend said recently, “it’s not their fault that our lives are so full,” and yet so often we take it out on them. I’ve noticed that often my husband and I respond to our existential exhaustion by wasting our weekend time lying around and saying “yes” to the iPads too much. In the coming new year, when and if our lives return to some form of normalcy, I vow to be more selective about what I sign my children up for, so that on the weekends there is remaining gas in the tank to actually spend time together.
  7. Be more loving toward my husband. I frequently make barely-veiled references (especially at this time of year) to the imminent murder of my husband at my own hand. But this resolution is the most important one on this list when it comes to raising happy, emotionally healthy children. My husband I do the best we can to model gracious, polite, appreciative behavior to people outside our house and family – waitresses, the nice lady at the dry cleaners, teachers, cashiers, the UPS guy. But sometimes there isn’t much “nice” left by the end of the day, and he and I fall somewhere between indifferent and snippy in our interactions at home. I resolve to reverse this. Yes, it is important that my children see me say thank you and speak warmly to strangers with whom we come in contact. But it’s equally if not more important that they see me be appreciative and affectionate to their father. They should see us kiss, often. They should hear us say “I love you,” frequently. It is from watching us that they should learn to say to their partners “thank you for working so hard.” Especially if I’m spending less time lusting after Cyril, I should be able to find more to lust after my husband.

Best wishes and good luck in the New Year… lord knows I’ll need it.

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Alice Leiter is a recovering lawyer living in Washington, D.C. with her husband and four children. Her hobbies include making fun of her family on Instagram, watching Bravo, and worrying that people are mad at her. She hates when grown women call her “Mama.” Reach her at alice@aliceleiter.com.