As parents, it’s our job to take care of our kids and focus on the minute details that can shape them for an uncertain future.  Many of us will start the new year with grandiose plans of changing our parenting for the better, but by the end of the year, many of us will have felt we failed.  This is why I wanted to focus on how you can make the best of whatever resolutions you may have planned.  The following are some key features of resolutions that you want to keep in mind when mapping out your own.

Be realistic.  One of the hardest things to do is be realistic.  We want to claim we will “never yell again” and although a select few seem able to do this, most of us will not.  This makes any failure feel like absolute failure instead of a minor setback.  Making sure our own resolutions are as realistic as possible for us can help us not throw in the towel if we make a mistake.

Have contingency plans.  What if you mess up?  What then?  Without a contingency plan, you feel like a failure.  Knowing how you’ll handle any mistake makes it more likely you’ll come of out of that mistake not only ready to continue, but probably having learned from the mistake as well.

Be specific.  Too many plans are based on vague notions of improvement.  “I will be more gentle”, “I will be a better parent”, “I will have my kids eat better”.  These may sound specific in some ways, but actually fail to let us build a blueprint for how we’re going to get there. So instead of “I will be more gentle”, identify the behaviours you want to stop – is it yelling? withdrawing love? – and create individual goals based on those specific behaviours.  Instead of “eating better”, pick what you mean – less junk? more homemade meals? more balanced meals?  all meals or just one to start? – and set your goals that way.

Create your blueprint. Once you set a specific goal, you can then take the time to go through how you’re going to get yourself there. In parenting this often involves not just identifying what you don’t want to do, but what you will do in it’s place.  This is the step where we can then often identify the goals that aren’t as realistic given where we are at in our lives.  We may want to make all homemade food, but when we sit down to think about what that looks like, it may cut into the bit of time you have with your kids and so you may realize that the time is more important than the meal.

Go slow.  We have that motivation to jump right in and make big changes during this time of year, but chances are if you go too fast or too big, you’ll give up.  If you have more than one resolution (and probably most of us do), order them in terms of a mix of importance and ease to implement.  You want to start with something you think you can be successful at in order to build up your own confidence, but you also will be driven to start with the goals most important to you so hopefully you can balance that well.  Once you have your top goal, start there and aim to work on that without introducing a new one until you feel this one is under control.  Remember you’re looking at goals over the course of a year – you have time, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

Keep them handy.  Write them down and post them somewhere.  Keeping them in sight helps keep them in mind, especially when you’re going slow.  Often we forget our goals and they kind of fall to side as life takes over, but if you can make sure they stay in sight, you have a greater chance of success.

Tell your kids and/or partner.  This keeps you accountable.  Even if your kids are too young to really understand, psychologically you telling them helps you feel like you are accountable to them for these changes.  We tend to keep these things quiet in case we fail, but that only hinders our chance for success.  We have to own what we’re aiming to do in order to have the support and sense of accountability we need to be successful.

Forgive yourself.  If you’re going into these resolutions because you’re angry at yourself for any past parenting you don’t like, you will be more likely to fail because you won’t be able to see any mistake as reasonable.  Try to find it in yourself to move beyond the past and forgive old you for the mistakes you’ve made so you can fully jump in to new you.

Good luck!  I know I’ll need it…