The Parenting New Year's Resolutions You Need Now
The new year is a time of beginnings and often big (often pretty unrealistic) goals. This year, try something different with these ten simple but effective parenting resolutions.
1. Sharpen your listening skills
Knowing that her opinion matters, that you really want to understand what she’s going through, and that she can tell you anything (really, anything) will serve your daughter and help keep her safe and happy. Open up the lines of communication by setting aside some time each week to connect. Put away your phones (no screens allowed!), and ask how she feels about different issues that affect her life or those of her friends. Find out what she’s excited about and also what might be making her nervous or upset. It might feel a little awkward at first, but once you get going, you’ll see a whole new side to your daughter, and she’ll appreciate the amazing amount of support coming from you.
2. Let her fail once in a while
Few things are more heartbreaking than watching your daughter struggle, which is why so many parents routinely step in to make their child’s life go more smoothly. The problem is, though, that when a parent interferes and “fixes” things for their kids, they’re actually keeping them from learning about responsibility and resilience. So, step back and let her mess up a little here and there. Similarly, expose her to and encourage her to try new things and stretch a bit beyond her comfort zone. She might be hesitant at first, but just letting her know you believe in her can be an incredible confidence boost!
3. Support her fashion choices
Many girls already feel self-conscious about their looks, so giving your daughter the freedom to express herself through clothing she feels good in can help her feel more confident. Of course that doesn’t mean you need to let her wear anything and everything she wants, but do try to find a happy medium. If she’s picked out a dress or outfit that’s not age-appropriate, ask her what it is she likes about the item and then work with her to find something similar that gives off the same style or vibe. Self-expression is an important part of growing up, and by supporting her style, you let her know you see and love her just the way she is.
4. Go beyond grades
Stop being the grade police! Yes, grades are important when it comes to getting into college, but many other things are just as important (and, believe it or not, there are plenty of great schools that will want your daughter’s enrollment even without so-called perfect marks). Instead, let her own her grades. If your daughter is getting low marks in school, talk to her about what the problem might be, and then have a similar discussion with the teacher to try to figure out the issue. But know that straight As aren’t necessarily a good sign either. Getting perfect grades too easily could be a sign that your daughter isn’t being challenged. It always pays to go beyond the report card and learn what’s really going on at school before making assumptions based on end-of-term scores.
5. Invest in her friends
Strong friendships help motivate girls to aim higher, help them feel less stressed, and make the emotional ups and downs of growing up a whole lot easier. Help your daughter form solid bonds with her buddies by offering to set up or host play dates, giving her rides to see her friends, and showing an interest in who she’s hanging out with online and off. Our lives are all busy, and it might seem easier to just let them stay in touch via text or phone calls, but there’s nothing like an in-person hangout with her best friends to give her a boost. Surprised by one of her choices in friends? Ask her about what she values in a friend in general, then what she values about this friend. What do they have in common? You might learn something new about your daughter or become aware of an unhealthy relationship situation she might need help with.
6. Get her more girl-only time
Speaking of friends, although it’s great to have a wide variety of them, girls especially benefit from time spent in an all-girl environment. Whether it’s an all-female sports team, regular slumber parties, or even her Girl Scout troop meeting, these work as a type of oasis in her otherwise coed world. When there are no boys to be compared to (or to compare herself to!), she can discover her passions, stretch her limits, and shine her absolute brightest without the social pressures of being seen as too girly, too masculine, or too anything. Experiences like these can be particularly meaningful when she’s trying something new or exploring an interest that girls and women haven’t been traditionally known for.
7. Take her passions seriously
Invest time, energy, and learn the language of whatever she’s into. Even if you don’t particularly care for skateboarding, jewelry making, gardening, video games, or that new TV show she won’t stop talking about, showing that you support her hobbies will give your daughter a sense of empowerment knowing that you respect her interests. Consider asking her to teach you a thing or two about it, as well. She’ll love being the one to pass along knowledge for once!
8. Be around
Even if your daughter is super independent, there will be times that she’d love to turn to you—and you’ll want to be there for those moments. Even when she’s doing her own thing, it’s often reassuring for her to know you’re on-hand and accessible. Some call this the “potted plant” theory of parenting: you probably don’t need a potted plant for any particular reason on most days, but it sure is nice having one around. Similarly, especially as your girl gets older, she might not seem to need you as much, but your presence makes her life better. Obviously, parents have lives (work, friends, errands, rest!), and there’s no reason to stop those things, but it’s never a bad thing to take stock of how you’re spending your time and to make sure you’re around and present for your daughter as much as you can be.
9. Embrace her feelings
Encourage her to speak directly about the way she feels. Sometimes it’s hard for parents to hear their children when they’re upset, dissatisfied, or frustrated, but it’s so incredibly important for her to have the language and space to express all of her emotions—yes, even when they’re sad or angry. Too often, girls are socialized to think they have to be happy and polite all the time, but girls and women are complex human beings and shouldn’t feel the need to bottle up their thoughts and reactions to the world. In fact, suppressing those emotions typically means they come out in other ways, often through relationally aggressive behavior. Giving your daughter the confidence, words, and skills to share her emotions with others will help her in her relationships now and well into the future.
10. Be kinder to yourself
The best way to instill confidence and self-compassion in your girl is to model it yourself. If you’ve ever found yourself criticizing the way you look or picking apart personal shortcomings in front of her, take a moment to pause and try again with something more positive. Of course nobody’s life is perfect, and it would be silly to pretend that yours is, but try to focus on the positive—the efforts you’re making, the improvements you’re working on, and the things you’re proud of—rather than the negative. Kindness is contagious, especially when it starts from within.