Resolutions for parents

Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 17, 2005 at 10:17 p.m.
To start the year off with a positive step, we asked experts to suggest New Year's resolutions for parents that would make families healthier, stronger and more connected.
Here are their ideas, along with advice on how to accomplish the resolutions, and why they're important:

Dr. Cora Collette Breuner, Director of the Adolescent Medicine Clinic at Children's Hospital and Medical Center and University of Washington professor of pediatrics:

  • Resolution: Try to eat at least five meals per week as a family and talk about wonderful things that happened that day.
  • How/why: The joy of eating together is one that has enormous implications for the family, the child and the parent. It should occur at home, not in the car, with time to prepare, eat and clean up a delicious meal that nourishes the body as well as the soul.

    Mollie M. Hughes, Education director, Break Through Parent Institute, Seattle:

  • Resolution: I will stop and think before I respond to my child's behavior with anger or judgment.
  • How/why: When you get angry, stop yourself just short of yelling, criticizing, punishing or shaming. Ask yourself, "What am I teaching my child at this moment?" When you get angry, your child sees and hears anger, not the lesson. Take care of your own feelings. Guide yourself and your child with patience and understanding.

    Laura Kastner, Professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington and co-author of "The Launching Years: Strategies for Parenting from Senior Year to College Life":

  • Resolution: I will try to be more tolerant and accepting of my teenager's natural inclinations to distance, repel and oppose me during this phase of establishing an individual identity separate from me.
  • How/why: Almost all parents of teenagers know their teenagers will become more surly and negative when they are establishing their own selfhood, especially between the ages of 11 and 16. But it is difficult to watch the transformation of your sweet little child, who used to respond positively to a smile or a Popsicle, into a teenage alien whom you can't maneuver into a good mood for love or money. That is selfhood - they are in charge of their moods, beliefs and attitudes. Parents need to trust that their relationship quality up to this point will still produce plenty of good moments, but good times are more episodic and based on the mood of the teen, not something parents can extract by guilt trips, pleas or exhortations. The development of selfhood is attained through messy skill-building, just like other marvelous developmental milestones like walking, talking and reading. Too bad parents tend to take this one so personally.

    Sharon Osborne, President/CEO, Children's Home Society of Washington:

  • Resolution: Institute a weekly Kids' Choice Night. On that night, your kids (one at a time or in collaboration with each other) choose what's on the menu and the family works together equally to create it. For older kids, let them do it on their own. Kids choose an interactive game or activity other than TV and you all participate. They choose bedtime and place and you go with it, even if it's a camp-out in the living room. They choose a book and all those able take turns reading the pages until it's done. Friday nights are great for Kids' Choice Night.
  • How/why: Letting your kids take responsibility for the night teaches them to make good choices, to consider others and collaborate - even though it may also mean another round of mac 'n' cheese and staying up later than you think is healthy. By instituting Kids' Choice Night, you tell them, "Your opinions are worth something. I trust your judgment and your growing skills. I like being with you and doing what you enjoy." By letting them rule the roost for the night, you are invited to let go of the enforcer, make room for your kid side and simply enjoy the too-soon-to-be-adults under your roof.
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