Five Parenting New Year Resolutions I Shall Try to Keep in 2020
In 2019, these are the parenting resolutions I intend to keep for my kids.
You make promises when you become a parent. You see your family and friends making what you perceive to be mistakes and you convince yourself that you will do better. You will never raise your voice in anger, you shall never use negative words around your kids, you will always be around cheering and hooting loudly as they achieve various milestones and you will hold their tiny hands tightly in yours when they are sick or dealing with heartache you have little control over.
And then life happens.
You get busy, your parents get old and sick, work takes a toll and life’s stresses get to you.
Who do you lash out at?
There’s a moment in the manic crazy days that is our life that most parents really savour. It’s those 10 minutes at the crack of dawn before the world (AKA your kids) has woken up. You’ve managed to make a decent cup of coffee and you let your mind wander. In my kids’ school, this time before classes begin is called reflection time.
Today as I sipped my coffee, I had one of those moments of clarity. Perhaps all those New Year stories I had commissioned were playing on my mind, but I started to ‘reflect’ on what my New Year Resolutions should be for my children.
So here they go, in no particular order:
I Shall Not Scream
IT WILL NOT HELP, says every self-help book ever.
Yes, we are all painfully aware, thank you. It’s my job to know. I have perhaps even written articles on it. But show me a parent who hasn’t screamed at their child and I’ll show you a unicorn, complete with a pink sparkly horn and rainbow wings.
Counting 1 to 10 was a particularly effective tool for my mother. We never got to 10. Not so with my kids. They’ve blocked my screaming so effectively they don’t even hear it and I have revised my counting skills for no reason whatsoever.
I was made painfully aware of my constant screaming by my kid who made a beautiful card for my friend’s new born. In the front there was a baby and a milk bottle and hearts. At the back was a giant dragon breathing fire and a tiny little girl taking cover. Ouch.
An article in The New York Times published in September was a giant slap in the face for me. ‘Yelling has to be the most widespread parenting stupidity’ it said.
Enough research has pointed out that the impact of screaming is similar to that of physical punishment. Children who are screamed at are likely to have lower self-esteem, depression etc.
And for the kids, you just look like a person who has lost control.
Sure, but ‘darling can you please pick your clothes off the floor and stop annoying your little sister’ doesn’t really work does it? Specialists talk about positive affirmation. Accompanied by parents leading by example. If you are screaming at your elder kid, she will scream at her younger sibling.
I have given positive affirmation a shot. Maybe twice. And given up on it. That it hasn’t worked is my fault. I have been lazy. Instead of really working hard at that thing called parenting, I’ve choosing to make myself feel better by screaming.
In 2020, I promise to be kinder to my children. And to myself.
We Will Practice Mindfulness
Or something like that. My colleague did a beautiful story on how mindfulness is being introduced to kids in Delhi schools. Inspired, I commissioned a couple of pieces on mindfulness and children. And decided to give the tips a shot at home.
Attempt one: I sat my 4-year-old in front of me. Crisscross applesauce position and all. Played some Mozart on the phone. Told her to keep her palms on her eyes and concentrate on her breathing. Two minutes later she was rolling on the floor giggling and playing a game of peak-a-boo.
Attempt two: We give it another shot. Mozart music, crisscross applesauce position, eyes closed. A minute later I hear calm breathing. I open my eyes triumphantly only to find my kid has fallen asleep. Mindfulness: Zero. Effective Sleeping Tool: One.
It may sound like a newfangled term, but mindfulness, a meditative exercise with roots in Buddhism, has been studied scientifically as many as 216 times between 2013 to 2015. It’s been found to be effective against a number of ailments including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
While these studies have been questioned for being too small, too narrow, there is strong evidence of Mindfulness working to treat depression, anxiety and chronic pain. MRIs have shown specific changes in brain patterns of those who meditate regularly.
Why am I insisting on pursuing this with my kids? Selfish reasons of course. Not only is mindfulness an effective tool for kids, it helps their caregivers as well. Any tool that can minimize anxiety and increase happiness should be a mandatory parenting hack. Add to that the moments of quite in a mad household, and we have a winner.
A regular conversation with my 9 year old goes something like this.
How was school?
What did you do?
How did your day go?
These fine conversations are broken by occasional I love yous and Harry Potter stories and a few ‘I want this and I want that.’
In my attempt to elevate our level of discourse, I introduced a goodnight ritual earlier in the year. We would talk about two good things that happened to us during the day. Even if we had to really think hard to come up with these. No matter how terrible a day we thought we’d had, we could always come up with something to be grateful for.
At some point during the year we stopped doing this. Too tired, too stressed, too irritated, too done with the day.
In 2020, I promise to reintroduce some gratitude in our lives.
Don’t Stress About Stress
You can’t hide your emotions in front of your kids. You shouldn’t. You are not a robot. You needn’t always be a happy chirpy parent straight from a TV commercial. That’s not real and your kids know it too.
I promise to let my kids be a bigger part of my life. Shielding children from all adversity is not the smartest way to parent. Psychologists insist on letting the kids grow up in a real world where they will deal with real world stresses.
A certain amount of stress will help them excel in various activities - whether it is studies or sports or life in general. Lack of stress can lead to boredom. And you certainly want to shield them from that.
Overcoming adversity will help my girls become self confident, and young girls can certainly benefit from a more positive self image.
Kids, get ready for a 2020 that’s not perfect. But still beautiful.
My way, Highway, Her way
The loudest battles in my house are fought over my girls just refusing to do things the way I want them done. It won’t change in 2020. And I need to get smarter about it. ‘You can achieve whatever you want in life,’ and ‘behave yourself and do as you are told’ are two very conflicting thoughts messing with your kids head.
I can’t be reading stories from ‘Rebel Girls’ and tell them ‘my way or the highway’ in the same breath.
So girls, in 2020, I promise to let you find your own way. And learn to accept and respect it.
I will occasionally slip, and I’ll forget all these tall promises I am making, but then you can always google this article and throw it back in my face. Girls, let’s make 2020 the year when mom ate the humble pie.
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