It’s the end of another year, and with that comes a bit of self-reflection. There are plenty of things I hope to change or improve in the coming year, especially when it comes to my career, my finances, and my household. But as far as parenting is concerned, I’m pretty proud of how I’ve handled being a mom and raising a toddler. Still, I know there’s always room for improvement and there’s certainly room for the New Year's resolutions every progressive parents should make.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term progressive parenting, it’s basically a form of parenting in which you refuse to treat your children as subordinates who need to be frequently disciplined and aren’t allowed to ask questions and, instead, raise them as autonomous human beings who are raised to be caring and compassionate. It’s a difficult style to balance during the very-testing toddler years, but certainly not impossible.
For example, I do not hit my child. Ever. I also try to avoid power struggles when I can, and do my best to teach my son how to do things (and how not to do things) instead of merely saying, “No!” and “Don’t!” all the time. I’ve seen how well this style works for my son, but I also know that I could be doing a better job. With that, here are some resolutions I’ll be adopting that you can adopt as well.
Continue To Keep Your Cool As Much As Possible
Progressive parenting asks that you not yell or spank or harm your child in any way. It suggests giving your kid ample room and opportunity to play and explore in more of a “yes” environment. However, when your toddler is going bananas in the living room or wants to break something nice you just purchased, it gets hard to keep cool. My approach, which I hope to expand on next year, is to breathe through it and try and focus positive energy on my child. Yes, he might be going wild, but there’s probably a reason and I need to address that reason first.
De-stress Alone And With Family
I need to be sure not to get so wound up all the time. Things that help? Exercise, sleep, nutrition, meditation, yoga, and spending time in nature. I need all these things in my life more frequently, and I need to involve my son in some of my practices as well.
Find Books For Your Child Written By Diverse Voices, Representing Diverse Views
My son is a big fan of books. So big in fact that he will often bring me a book to read to him rather than watch a cartoon (which is great except when I’m exhausted and would really just like a 10 minute break while he watches Blippi).
I think it’s incredibly important for us to introduce our children to various points of view, and one great way is by making sure they aren’t just reading books written by white, cis-het men or about little white children. This means making sure to read and purchase books that break racial stereotypes, that teach about LGBTQIA families, that break down gender roles, and more.
Take Your Child To Activities Where Diversity Is Celebrated
On that same note, if your child is in a place where they tend to only see one group of people, where diversity is lacking, making sure to take them where there is some diversity. That could mean a lot of different things, like attending a Kwanzaa or Hanukkah celebration, putting them in a foreign language class, or going to the indoor playground outside of your usual neighborhood. These things can teach kids to have respect for the traditions and lifestyles of others and meet people from all sorts of backgrounds.
Make Sure To Answer Your Kid’s Questions, Even If It’s Uncomfortable For You
If you’ve been sugar coating or avoiding having to answer some of your kid’s questions, this might be the year to start spelling things out for them plain and simple. If your child asks where babies come from, you don’t want to confuse them with a story about a magical stork. Make your answers clear, concise, and age-appropriate.
Volunteer Somewhere With Your Family
This is a wonderful way to instill compassion in your child. You can give them a list of options on who or what they’d like to help (to feed the hungry, to clean up a beach or park, to help shelter pets, to help clothe the poor, etc.) and then make it happen. Your kids will appreciate this new time spent with you, and you’ll all benefit from giving back to your communities.
Take A Long Hard Listen At Your Language And Alter It Accordingly
Once upon a time, I said some pretty horribly insensitive things in my daily language. I used words that, without meaning to, put down people with mental illnesses, people of other backgrounds, and even people of my same identities. Back then, I didn’t realize how much words can hurt.
Speak mindfully and make sure you’re not using language that fat shames or body shames, words that reinforce gender roles or racial stereotypes, phrases that put down women or other minorities. You don’t want your kids to grow up thinking this is actually normal and acceptable.
Work On Being Healthier Together As A Family
You know how you might want to break down and cry and/or burn things on a day where you got little sleep, had a lousy breakfast or skipped lunch, and mostly just sat all day? Your kids feel that way, too. Improve your health and that of your family by doing things like meal planning, setting good morning and evening routines, minimizing screen time, and being more active.
Open The Floor For Difficult Conversations
Depending on your child’s age, they might witness things they don’t quite understand. They may see people sleeping on the floor on the streets of your neighborhood. They might watch a news segment where someone graffiti’d swastikas, or where the president-elect was overheard talking about grabbing women inappropriately, or they might hear about the death of another unarmed African American. These are incredibly difficult things for your children to understand, and it’s up to us all to use these events as teachable moments for our kids to get a better grasp of the world, to not scare them, and to remind them that they need to practice kindness and empathy at all times.
Remember You’re Their Biggest Role Model, And Act Like It
Your kids look up to you, whether you like it or not. Use that as motivation to be the best version of yourself. If you’re lazy about cleaning, start making time for laundry and throwing out trash. If you don’t eat very well, work on making better food choices. If you’re having trouble quitting smoking cigarettes, throw out the pack and make a promise to your child you’ll finally stop because you know it’s unhealthy. In 2017, if nothing else, be your best self.
Encourage Your Kid To Be Kind To All
Arm your child with the tools to be kind to others. Let them know some good responses for when you’re thankful, when you’d like to ask a question, when you need to be excused, when you encounter something you don’t like. Remind them that everyone has feelings, even if not everyone likes to show them. Encourage them to be their best, most compassionate selves. We’re raising the future here, and if we don’t teach our kids to be empathetic and kind, who will?