Check Your Parenting in the Rearview Mirror

Image via Katie Hurley

It seems like the very minute the holiday season comes to a close, the world focuses on resolutions. Perhaps the need to set lofty expectations for self-improvement is directly proportional to cookies eaten during the holiday season, or maybe the long days of winter leave us wanting something better. Whatever the reason, resolutions to begin the New Year on the right foot are common practice.

Do we really need to start the year with a resolution to do better?  What does that actually say?  That we're not good enough?

You want to know a secret? I have never ever set a personal New Year's resolution. It wasn't really a thing in my family when I was a kid. We all had things we worked on and personal goals to achieve, but we didn't sit down around the table on January 1 to discuss specific goals for the upcoming year. Truth be told, the holiday season was always more about togetherness and celebrating happy times in my childhood home — pressure-packed resolutions didn't fit into our little world.

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I love setting goals, and my husband and I talk about setting and reaching individual goals with the kids throughout the year. We have our own goals (get that manuscript in), family goals (try more new foods), and fun goals (take as many bike rides as possible). But we don’t set specific resolutions each year.

We have a different plan in place in our home. Instead of thinking about big lofty goals or finding the things that we need to do better, we celebrate success. We start the New Year by listing the things that went well. We identify and celebrate our strengths and successes. For our family, starting the New Year on a positive means celebrating the things we did well during the previous year and building from there.

Sure, there are always areas that need improvement. Yes, we all fall short sometimes. But when I sit down and look at my little family of four, I see amazing things. When I replay the events of the previous year, I see laughter, accomplishment, kindness, and empathy. I see friendship, happiness, and love. I choose to look back and see the positive, and that starts us off on the right foot.

Parents often ask me about setting specific parenting resolutions. Will it help to set a goal of less yelling? Will putting “be more patient” in writing on the wall make that particular goal come true? Do parenting goals actually work?

The hard part of parenting is that change happens around every corner. Just when you think you find your groove, a new thing crops up. As kids grow, their needs and behaviors change. Parents have to shift and bend and grow with their kids, and that can feel overwhelming at times.

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While goals and visual reminders can be helpful, they can also add an element of pressure to the mix — particularly when framed as a “New Year's Resolution.” What happens when things change and you lose sight of the original goal? Does that make for a parenting failure?

While I believe in working on goals as parents, as individuals, and as families, I think those are things that should be evaluated throughout the year.

As for January 1, try this strategy instead: Check your parenting in the rearview mirror. Look back to find the positives that brought you to right now. Identify and discuss what went right, and start your year by building upon your past success.

We can always find things that we need to improve, but finding the things that we really did well will help us approach a new year with confidence and happiness.

Choose to start the year on the right foot by celebrating the successes of the previous year. Those pesky goals can wait for another time.

What do you think?

Check Your Parenting in the Rearview Mirror

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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