Hey there! Happy 2016! I’m so glad you’re here, reading my first FresYes post of a brand-new, sparkly year – a year full of possibility! I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling pretty energized and inspired with the start of this New Year, and that’s not something I’ve always felt. As a blogger, I feel I’d be remiss if I failed to do something in honor of the time-honored tradition of making New Year’s resolutions – however, my hope is not to wax on poetic about my own hopes and dreams for 2016, but instead to offer you something of practical use. Ideas, resources and perhaps a bit of motivation to help you meet YOUR 2016 goals (whether you choose to make actual resolutions or not).
Each week in January, I will be writing about five specific resources I’ve personally vetted or used, that can be of particular help when it comes to meeting one of the most common goals people set at the start of a new year. The goals I’ll be providing ideas around are as follows:
- Being a better parent/improving family bonds
- Keeping a tidier, more organized home
- Looking put together, easily
- And the ole’ standby: Losing weight (I’ll share what finally has helped me to drop 30lbs on the last Wednesday of the month!)
I hope that you’ll find something useful in each post, and consider sharing them with someone you care about, who may be trying to meet one of these goals in 2016!
Week One: Being a Better Parent
Parenting is such a personal thing, am I right? I mean, as parents (current or future) we are all affected by a multitude of influences; how we were raised, how our parents were raised, other parents, our church, the media, heck – Pinterest! (and so on). Our daily decisions, “Should I pack Wheat Thins and string cheese or Cheezits and peanut butter for snack?” “Is he old enough for a phone?” “Should I let him walk to school?” add up to create this monumental thing for our children – their childhood.
One of the thoughts that simultaneously scares and inspires me as a mother is, “How will my son remember his childhood? What will be the moments that stand out in his mind?” The older my son gets, the more I aware I am of the fact that he has passed the age at which I have many memories of my own childhood – therefore, what I’m doing now as a parent, and what he’s experiencing each day may become a part of that broken record that plays in his mind someday as an adult.
I know I’m not alone in my thoughts, and I think that is reflected in the fact that a single google search with the words “parent” and “New Year’s Resolution” brings up over 100 million results. What I’d like to offer today, as nothing more than an amateur parent, doing my best each day not to screw this all-important task up, are five tips or resources that have had a positive effect on the way I parent, in hopes that at least one or two of them will have the same effect on other parents. I am also very open to hearing best practices in parenting from you – our wonderful FresYes readers, so please feel welcome and encouraged to share! (Here in the comments section or on our Facebook page – both work!)
Tip #1: Spend quality time together as a family, schedule it!
Our lives are so incredibly busy, or at least it feels that way – and the children of this generation don’t know what it’s like to live in simpler, slower times. Fast and furious, smart phones in hand (either theirs, their parents’ or both often times) the family lifestyle of the current era is a far cry from that of our parents and certainly our parents’ parents.
In order to stay connected, we need to practice making face time (no, NOT on your iPhone) a priority – even if it means scheduling time to play a board game or putting “go out for pizza with the family” on your to-do list. We cannot wait to squeeze in time to play with our kids until all of our responsibilities are handled. In fact, playing with our kids needs to be considered one of our highest responsibilities, if we want them to feel secure, loved and healthy and grow up to be well-adjusted adults.
Ok, so we get it – we need to spend time with our kids regularly, but how do we start if we aren’t in the habit already? Family Nights (or Days or Mornings). Pure and simple. Pick a day of the week (in our house, it’s Sundays) and a time of the day (for us it’s evening). Block out that time on your calendars and make it sacred, adjusted only when absolutely necessary. As a family, share a meal together and during the meal, ask each family member what the best and toughest moments of their past week were. Ask what they’re looking forward to in the week ahead, and any problems they are concerned about facing. Brainstorm together on how to handle these problems and prepare your kids to cope with life’s challenges in a positive way. After your meal, take turns choosing an activity everyone can do together. In our house, it often becomes a video game (because that’s what our son likes) but sometimes it’s a neighborhood walk, a trip to the park, watching a movie or playing a board game. Whatever it is, everyone should do their best to be good sports and enjoy the time together. (No distractions, no phones.)
Need ideas of places you can go, if you’d like to get out of the house during your family night (or day, or morning!) Check out the many posts we have right here on FresYes about places to go and activities to do right here in the Valley! This link will take you right to them.
Tip #2: Be aware of your own habits
Have you noticed your children love it when you play a certain game with them? Or maybe they seem more likely to share details about their day with you, when you greet them after work with a smile and hug instead of, “Mom had a stressful day honey, I need a minute before we talk, ok?” Are you concerned about the frequency in which you tend to lose your temper trying to get everyone out of the house in the morning, or do you wish you could get into a routine of getting up before your kids in the morning, for a few minutes of “me” time?
It’s time to take note of the habits you want to make and the habits you want to break when it comes to being a parent, and I’ve come across a simple but effective way of making them stick. Momentum is a simple and free app that allows you to set up three habits, and track your progress toward sticking to them on a weekly basis. Momentum lets you set a goal for the number of times per week you plan to do something (or not do something, depending on what you’re working on) and keep track of your personal streaks, encouraging you to keep forging ahead to make desirable behaviors real habits. You can set up as many as three habits at once with the free version, or an unlimited number of habits with the paid version.
Tip #3: Help everyone to pitch in
One of the quickest ways to ensure parental burnout is to carry the lion’s share of the load all the time. I’ve heard from countless friends and other parents that getting kids to do their chores is a big source of stress, and often times, doing a chore themselves can be easier than asking their children repeatedly to complete a task. I too have experienced this quite a bit, and I longed for an effective system that motivated my son to pitch but didn’t require me to nag him. I’ve tried charts, rewards, consequences but what finally seems to be doing the trick is an app called, “Chore Monster”. With Chore Monster, I can set up both a parent and child account (you can set up multiple children’s accounts but just one parent account, so if you’re a two-parent household, you may wish to set up the parent account as “Mom and Dad” or something that has both of your titles or names) and assign recurring or one-time chores to each family member. The chore setup allows for you to make notes, include pictures (especially helpful for younger children who can’t yet read) and to set a due date/time and reward point value. Then, you also have the opportunity to set up a menu of rewards kids can turn in their points to redeem. (Yes, that’s right – we’re pretty much turning the completion of chores into a Chuck-e-Cheese ticket arcade.)
I’ve setup several daily chores as well as a few weekly and floating chores for my son, and four different rewards. We struggle with “too much time on screens” so recently, we’ve been giving our son tickets (raffle tickets like they sell on rolls inexpensively at office supply stores) and each ticket is good for one hour of screen time. He gets a weekly allotment of tickets, but if he uses them up and wants more time, he has to earn it as a reward through the Chore Monster app and doing chores. Over this winter break we’ve seen a wonderful side effect of our system taking place – and that is our son is reading like crazy because he doesn’t want to “waste” all of his tickets and wants something to do. Fine by me! 😉
Once Chore Monster is setup, it’s very easy to use and requires minimal fuss on your part. There are also little additions to the kid end of the app like a wheel they can spin to “win” a new monster (they collect them like badges) or a goofy consolation prize. “Sorry, you didn’t win a monster this time, but here – have an empty bag of potato chips!” (It’s good for a laugh.)
By finding a way to get kids completing household duties, without nagging – you’ll enjoy more time to have fun with the family instead of clean and there will be less tension in the home as well. Give the app a try – and above all, be sure to introduce it to your kids with enthusiasm. If they sense you think it won’t work, it won’t, but if they sense your excitement, you may be surprised how motivated they become.
Tip #4: Read this, and this, then this.
On the days when you feel like your kid is going to drive you crazy with behavior issues or acting out, read this:
On the days when you feel like you’re doing your best, and wonder if it’s enough, read this:
And, when you just don’t know what else to do – Ask Supernanny. (No really – her book, Ask Supernanny is awesome! I refer to it frequently and you can get a copy for as little as $2 or $3 on Amazon!)
Tip #5: Surround yourself with other parents who love their kids and are doing their best.
Parenting is hard work. One day, you’ll think you’ve nailed it, and the next day you feel like you’ve totally botched it. Parenting in a vacuum is not just isolating, but also unhealthy for you and your kids. By making friends with other parents who can relate to your challenges, victories and experiences you’ll have the opportunity to find out that what you’re going through with your own kids is probably pretty common – and you may even find solutions that others had to learn the hard way, through the advice of a parent friend who’s been there, done that. If you wait to befriend only the parents who parent exactly like you do, you may find yourself feeling pretty alone. Remember, we can all learn from one another as we muddle through the murky waters of mother and fatherhood – so don’t try to seek parent pals who are just like you, but instead love their kids and are trying their best to be good parents – just like you.