Six New Year’s Resolutions Every Parent Should Make

As we approach the dawn of a new year thoughts turn again to resolutions. Many will be resolving to lose weight, stop smoking, cut back on their drinking and to exercise more, others may decide to quit their job, start a new education course or hobby – but for those who are parents there are six resolutions that I think are vital.


1. Resolve to respect your child(ren)

As adults we command respect from our children, and other adults, on a daily basis. We expect to be treated in a certain way – as the dictionary definition of ‘respect’ says, to give ” due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others” – we expect others to take our thoughts, rights and beliefs into account in all dealings with us. If a child in particular shows us a lack of respect we are quick to pull them up on it (especially if they are tweens or teens!), yet do we afford our children the same priviledge? I don’t think so.

If we respected our children we would listen when they woke crying in the middle of the night instead of returning them to bed with minimal eye contact or conversation. If we respected our children we would not force them to eat the untouched brocolli on their plate that they beg us to leave. If we respected our children we would never say “because I said so” or escalate into yelling at tweens and teens. If we respected our children we would not leave a baby sobbing at daycare for the tenth day in a row. If we respected our children we would not ignore their overwhelming emotions when they tantrum in public. If we respected our children we would never consciously hurt them – and would understand that a ‘tap’, ‘pop’ or ‘smack’ anywhere on their body – for whatever reason is unacceptable violence.

If we respected our children they would respect us and not feel the need to display half of the behaviours listed above.


2. Resolve to empathise with your child(ren)

Children have bad days just like us, some days the world is overwhelming, some days they are scared, lonely, confused, anxious or angry. Some days they need duvet days, hugs and for us to listen to them. How would you feel if you were treated in the same way that you treat your child(ren)?

If we empathised with our children we would never leave them crying alone in their crib at night – even if it is for only 5 minute intervals. If we empathised with our children we would never make them sit on a naughty step or put them in ‘time out’. If we empathised with our children we wouldn’t yell at them and we would never intentionally hurt them. If we empathised with our children we would listen to them more and speak at them less.

If we empathised with our children they would grow to be empathic towards others, including their parents, and would not feel the need to display half of the behaviours listed above.


3. Allow your child(ren) to have their own opinions and make their own choices.

For some reason many adults seem to believe that children are incapable of making their own good choices and need steering as much as possible, similarly we often punish a child who holds different opinions to us. We do however aspire to raise children who are thinkers, confident and assertive and questioning of the world – how do we expect them to be so if we take such control over their lives?

Children need to make mistakes, the best way for them to learn what is a good and what is a bad choice is to let them experience the natural consequences of their actions. The best way to raise a child who respects the opinions of others is to respect the child’s individual opinions ourselves. That also means allowing them to make age appropriate decisions as much as possible. If they are not of an age where they are capable of making a big decision about their lives – then we owe it to our children to not make that decision for them unless it threatens their physical health or psychological wellbeing.

If we allowed our children to make mistakes and valued their opinions they would grow to respect the opinions of others and know the value of good and bad choices at an age when they need to the most.


4. Reset your expectations to what is age appropriate and normal

Much parenting angst stems from our skewed perceptions of what is and isn’t normal when it comes to babies and children. From night waking to naps, eating to behaviour, our perception of what is normal and what is “a problem” is usually far from the truth.

It is normal for babies to wake regularly throughout the night well into their second year, it is normal for toddlers to bite, throw and hit, it is normal for preschoolers to not want to share, it is normal for a 5 year old to not understand – or care – how their actions can upset another and it is normal for a tween or teen to have uncontrollable bouts of anger that result in door slamming or wall punching. All of these behaviours are related to brain maturation (or rather the lack of), they are not behaviours that mean you are raising a monster they are just a relection of biology.

Make your new year’s resolution to understand the normal physiology and psychology of children, particularly the same age as yours and throw out any books or magazines that are ignorant to this knowledge and stop visiting parenting websites that are full of forums and advice article that promote otherwise.

When we reset our expectations of our children based on biological fact it is easier to be kind to ourselves as well as our children and will also result in more respect, empathy and allowance of control too.


5. Take time to nurture yourself

Parenting is really hard, particularly in the times that we live in. We are not meant to parent alone, we are meant to do it as part of a group – who provide emotional and physical support. We are not meant to parent and take a full time job, parenting *is* a full time job. We are not meant to worry about our physical appearance 3 weeks post partum.

As parents today we have so much added stress that we forget to see parenting for what it is – the most important job in the world. If you spend all day doing nothing but cradling a fractious newborn, bouncing a teething 6 month old or laying with a poorly toddler you haven’t “failed” or “done nothing” – you have done *everything*, you have done your (parenting) job and then some.

We get so frazzled as parents – with money worries, relationship issues and work concerns, we are exhausted dealing with all of the sleepless nights alone and our stress rises. We become so full of our own overwhelming emotions that we are unable to ‘hold’ any from our children. So we snap. We shout at them, we send them to their room when we know what we really should have done is talk. We leave babies to cry themselves to sleep because we just can’t face another night with no sleep. These problems though are ours, not those of our children. They don’t need fixing – we do.

Taking care of yourself as a parent is not a luxury or a bonus if you have a spare 5 minutes, it’s is a vital part of who you are and what you do. When you nurture yourself in body and soul you will have more patience, more respect, more empathy and more understanding of your children and your increased ability to deal with their issues as well as your own, will mean you will have far less pf their issues to deal with.


6. Give them your attention.

Many ‘parenting experts’ comment that babies and toddlers only behave in a certain way in order to elicit the attention of their parents, like this is a bad thing. Parents are advised to ignore the attention seeking behaviour, when what they really need to do is to see it as a need that should be met.

Our lives are so busy, so full of screens and half hearted “in a minute honey” and “that’s nice dear” comments, so full of rushed bedtimes, meals on the run, clubs, classes and playdates. Our lives are so full of ‘stuff’ – toys, apps and equipment – that our children are growing up ‘stuff rich’ but ‘attention poor’.

If children persisitently act in ways we do not like in order to get our attention – be that hitting, biting, throwing, crying, tantruming, door slamming or sulking – by far the easiest way to distinguish the unwanted behaviour is to give them our undivided attention. Not only does this have untold benefits for our children – but for us too, for it means we slow down and begin to see the wonder in the world once again.

For support in making these resolutions and to learn more about becoming a gentle parent join my Facebook page HERE.

Happy new year!


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About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
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10 Responses to Six New Year’s Resolutions Every Parent Should Make

  1. Linz G says:

    Trying to give working parents a guilt trip?

  2. Emily-Jane says:

    I love this and agree with all of your resolutions! Lovely post. Happy New year!

  3. Rachael says:

    My only concern is the point about daycare and respect. My daughter loves nursery and would go full time if I let her, and I feel very lucky about that. However, if she *didn’t* enjoy it… other than investigating a different provider there wouldn’t be much I could realistically do. We do not have the financial luxury of one parent being at home. I could not safely or responsibly work from home and supervise a toddler at the same time either.

    My daughter has a new friend at nursery who cries at drop off and his mum stays a little longer to settle him. Totally fine. My daughter has recently been experimenting with doing the same to see if her dad will stay for a bit – he doesn’t, he can’t, and she’s stopped crying before he’s even left the room. No one is being disrespectful to anyone.

    I get what you were trying to put across but I just think it was a bit heavy handed and somewhat dismissive of something which is a reality for so many parents.

    • There are many alternatives to the hypothetical situation I presented which is sadly a very common one where parents often say “but I need to keep a roof over our heads and have no other options”.

      Firstly it could be working with the nursery and baby to implement a strategy whereby the child felt more settled. Secondly it could be choosing home based childcare (which is usually more suited to under 3s needs) – whether that be in somebody else’s home: a childminder, grandparents etc.. or in the child’s own home: nanny or nanny share etc..Thirdly it could be delaying the return to work until after the separation anxiety has passed, a 2 or 3 month extra period of maternity leave could make a huge difference.

      Lastly, I know this won’t be popular – but for many parents who say they don’t have a choice but to return to work – they often do. It’s just not a choice they want to make, as it would involve selling their house/renting a much smaller house/apartment, selling their car, not holidaying for several years, removing all luxuries from their lives. I know that for many, many parents they do not have luxuries to scale back on, they already rent a tiny apartment, have no car, don’t take holidays etc..and for these people they truly don’t have a choice (so the 3 options above would be how they would show respect to their baby) – just surviving takes priority, but I don’t believe that all of the parents who excuse their child’s upset by saying “I have to do it” *really* have to. It’s about balancing everybody’s needs really and being as respectful to the child in the process, it’s not a “working parent V stay at home parent” debate.

      • Rachael says:

        Unfortunately I wouldn’t leave my cat with some of the childminders I saw; they clearly had availability for a reason. Nursery continues to be the best option for our family.

        As for not wanting to versus not being able to – I don’t think they are mutually exclusive. Call me crazy, unattached to my daughter (I did have a c section, hoho), whatever, but I have a duty to provide for my daughter’s long term needs too. It’s not simply about right now. I suppose, fundamentally, I’m a confident and secure mother with a confident, secure daughter, and I know I’m doing it right. I find digs at working parents suggesting that they could prioritise in a way that better suits a random person who has never met them… mischievous.

  4. Sophie Weston says:

    Also, it is often the case that one salary is almost all eaten up by daycare costs, meaning that said parent might well be better off at home, possibly doing part time work and saving money. The exception to that would be if that parent really struggled with being a hands on parent and was happiest at work.

    • Yes very much so re your last comment. Some parents need to work, not for money – but for their own sanity and in recognising this need that is also respectful of the child, it just needs to be balanced in a way where the child is as happy as possible in whatever care situation they are left in.

  5. Emilie Leeks says:

    #4 – 5 yr olds don’t understand or care about the effect of their actions on others – maybe we’re too hard on James when he whacks Abi!

    Just a question we could try asking ourselves each morning: what can i (must i?!) do to stay on an even keel today?


    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

  6. Becky Johnson says:

    I like these resolutions, especially #6. I feel if you give your babies all of the attention you possibly can the others will work out too. I am a grandmommy of 5 girls 1 boy and a girl on the way. I am here because I brought my 19 week old home from the hospital and will be raising her. My first girl I guess you could say because my kids were all three boys. Wow it was much easier. HAPPY NEW YEAR! God bless!

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