#RelationshipGoals - Parent Edition!
We are working on making 2018 the best year yet for our relationships! So that means that before we even hit January 1, we hit the ground running by setting our goals. You may have already seen the #RelationshipGoals for couples worksheet (if not – subscribe here, and you can download it for free!), but today we are talking about being the best parent we can be.
What does this mean? For each of your kids, let’s take some time to think through who they are, what they accomplished this year, and how to build from that in the new year. I suggest pulling out a journal or notebook to write these things down, because we will most certainly follow up on this later in the year! Fill in your answers, and don’t be afraid to sit down and discuss them with your child. Part of relationship-building is honesty – if you want a better relationship with your kid, it’s a good idea to talk to them about it (even if you get some eyerolls or strange looks in return).
Who They Are
Describe your child. Don’t make excuses for behavior, decide where they got these qualities from, or sugar coat. Your kids are awesome, but why? And also, they have flaws, what are they?
Some parents lean overly positive or overly critical of their children. You may realize that you are much less likely to say something negative – or much less likely to say something positive. An honest assessment of who your kids are will include both. Where can they grow? Where are they on the right track?
Note that leaning positive and negative may fluctuate from one child to another, and doesn’t mean that you have a favorite. It does, however, say more about you than it does about them.
Get honest about that.
As an example, I tend to see my daughter’s annoying habits as though I have zoomed in on them – why? Because they are exactly MY annoying habits! My son, who is more like my husband, gets a pass from me on some of those things because I’m already tolerant of those behaviors – because my husband does them!
Some kids are really difficult to get to know. Give yourself a break if this exercise is a really difficult thing for you to do for that reason. It may have to do with their age, personality, or even the amount of time that you are able to spend together. That’s ok! The point of this exercise is that we want to make note of these things and build from where we are right now in the new year.
So – now that we have that out of the way, let’s get started!
What was your child’s biggest growth point this year? Kids mature extremely quickly. Sometimes it’s hard to think about where they were just a year ago versus now. Scroll through your old Facebook posts from last year (if you talk about your kids there), look through pictures from a year ago. Reflect on where they matured, whether it was at home, at school, in sports, with friends, or anywhere.
Now – what would your child say their biggest accomplishment was this year? What are they proud of? This may be something that you completely overlook when you think about them. Maybe they got to a new level on their video game, maybe they made a friend.
Even if you think you know, ask them – and make sure that you affirm their answer, because they are giving you huge clues as to what is important to them.
What was tough for your child this year? Did they struggle at school, or in their friendships? Did they not make the team, or get in trouble at home a lot? Are they still having more tantrums than what you'd expect at this age?
At what point did you feel disappointed with your child? Was it because of something that they did – or was it actually a reflection of you or your parenting? Don’t excuse the disappointments, but note them. There is generally something that we wish we could have done differently in those situations. What could they (or you) have done differently?
Now that we have reflected on the past year, we can begin setting realistic expectations and goals for next year.
Relationships with our kids are strongest when we are instilling values that are important to us, instead of teaching them “who is boss.” This keeps us from having power struggles with our kids, and allows us to choose our battles wisely.
When reviewing your year with your child in 2017, what was the value that was missing, or could be strengthened? Some examples could include: generosity, presence, respect, tact, tradition, understanding, challenge, independence.
What are a few words that you can focus on for 2018? Start with 3-4. You could focus on each of them at the same time, or do a quarterly family focus.
What are some ways that you could intentionally practice these values?
Generosity. We can start to (or increase if we already do) save 10% of our chore money each week, and at the end of the year will have enough to purchase a toy for a charity organization.
Presence: We can turn off all screens at 7pm three nights a week and have a game night, read together, take a walk, or do another family activity.
It is a great idea to let your children participate in creating these goals and even help in determining what values they could work on. This will help them to feel included in the process (rather than having “new stupid rules that mom and dad made up ::EYEROLL::”) and allow them to understand the idea of personal growth.
Remember – these are values that you are saying are important to your family. If you come up with a plan, make sure that it is feasible for you to follow it. If your value is presence and you’ve agreed to turn off your phone, don’t go hide in the bathroom so you can check Facebook. Instead of looking for ways to bend the rules, try to make suggestions that you all will be able to live with and don’t feel like punishment.
Talking to our kids can be tough, especially if we haven’t established that kind of relationship already. Depending on the ages of your kids, this may be something that seems insurmountable.
Photo by London Scout on Unsplash
What can you do to better communicate with your children? With young kids, this may just be spending time with them letting them tell you (mostly made-up) stories about their day. It may mean spending one-on-one time with them, or installing family dinners into your routine.
If you are a “yeller” or default to lecturing your kids, make sure that you give yourself room to have measured conversations with your kids about normal day-to-day things, that don’t include you escalating into a lecture. Not every conversation has to include advice or counsel – our kids most often just need to be heard. If they don’t feel like they can approach you without consequence, they will find someone else to listen to them.
Ask your kids how you can make them feel supported in the upcoming year. Open the door for feedback, and if you are lucky enough to receive it, don’t defend yourself. Look for ways to meet them halfway.
Finally - what would you like to be able to say to each other at the end of 2018?
Think about this one.
Write it down.
Put it on the chalkboard or family calendar.
Make your decisions, and choose your battles, with that goal in mind.
Brooke Williams, MA, LPC, is a counselor licensed to practice in South Carolina. She specializes in making relationships thrive – whether working on marriages, parenting, friendships, or conflict in the workplace. You can read more about her here.