Thursday, January 2, 2014

Actions Speak Louder Than Your Words



It's a new year, and everyone is talking about "new year resolutions".........and we all know how that usually goes.  You make some resolution that in the moment seems "doable" and you're so determined to follow through, and within a month (if not sooner) you've found a million reasons why that was a stupid resolution and not worth pursuing.   And, then.......we resolve to not make resolutions, or to at least make better ones.......NEXT year!

If you have children, and they're old enough, they are of course watching.  So what are we really teaching them when we make some silly resolution, and then toss it aside within a few weeks?  Perseverance can be one of the toughest roads to walk.  Whether it's persevering on a diet, or the language you use, or finding your 'soul mate', or whatever the quest......the perseverance can be daunting.  Sometimes it just feels easier to give up and not worry about the outcome.  We humans are masters at rationalizing why something should or shouldn't be.

Now.....back to the kids......we all want our children to grow up to be healthy, happy and successful.  Many do in spite of the parenting, or because of the parenting they received growing up.  One thing is for certain.....there are no guarantees that even if you do everything exactly perfectly, your children will grow up the way you imagined.  However, parenting requires not only perseverance, but.....uh oh....here comes that word......resolutions!  With that in mind, it might go a little better for all of us if we remember just a few rules:

    • Focus on Short-Term Goals versus Long Term Goals: Young children, 
      don’t often have the ability to set a goal long term and keep the motivation up to achieve it....especially if it is something that will take them a year or more to reach. So, don’t focus on  long-term goals with your children. If they've come up with a big goal, it's best to help them break it down into little goals.  This way they'll be able to achieve the smaller goals more quickly, which encourages them to keep striving towards that BIG goal.

    • Limit the Number of Goals:    Children pretty much live in the 'here and now'.  Have you ever told one of them to do 3 or 4 things before they can go out

      to play, and then realize an hour later you haven't heard them at all......and then, find them doing something totally unrelated to the tasks!?  When young children are given a big long list of goals, it is easy for them to feel overwhelmed and lose motivation. Prioritize what's really the most important thing, and keep that list short!  No more than 1 or 2 things.  Interestingly enough, what you'll usually find is, when kids see just one or two things, they'll dive right in and get them done before you expect them too.  Then, once those are out of the way, add a couple more.......like they say....."baby steps" towards the ultimate goal.    

    • Let You Children Set Goals That Matter To Them: The temptation as parents is to establish "our" goals for our kids.  And to a certain extent that's okay, but ultimately kids need to learn how to set their own goals.  If we continually come up with the idea, set the priority, and then demand performance, we are in essence setting them up for a life of waiting for someone else to tell them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.   Let your children create their own goals that are important to them--teach them early on how to set their own achievable goals and how to reach them.  (Remember.......don't do the work for them!)

    • Don't Rescue Them:  One of the things most parents are guilty of doing is rescuing their children when things don't go according to plan.  Of course
      there's always an instance where it's necessary, but I'm talking about rescuing them from things they probably shouldn't be involved in, or from things they don't need.  Just because their best friend got a new 'whatever' and they're upset because they don't have one, doesn't mean you run out and get one for them so they won't be sad.  And, there are times when they get themselves into trouble, and we want to rescue them, but honestly, how do we all learn best......by suffering the consequences of our own bad decisions.  If you're constantly rushing in to help them out of situations they got themselves into, guess what......you'll be doing it when they're adults to.  So let them suffer the consequences of their bad decisions (and I hope you know I mean within reason), and just be there to encourage them to do better the next time. 
      At this point too....resist the temptation to lecture or say "I told you this would happen"....you know all those "parent words" that seem to flow so effortlessly from our mouths.  This is a time to help them reflect on what they could have done differently to achieve a more positive outcome.  (The resisting part for you is the really really hard part!)


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