Our Gift In Time

Sparkling champagne, songs of celebration and the crystal-laden globe of New Year’s Eve festivities usher in a fresh year filled with hope and dreams. A clean, white slate invites each of us to author a new chapter in our parenting story where wrongs are made right, chaos is conquered, and life’s challenges feel a bit more surmountable.

The past serves as a brilliant teacher, enlightening us with new insights regarding old attitudes, mindsets, and perspectives. The desire to avoid repeating the mistakes of yesterday is a legitimate reason to pause and reflect, motivated by the resolve to do better in the days to come.

As you take a deep, cleansing breath and courageously script the next chapter of motherhood, determine to make this one a high point in the parenting journey. With the heartfelt longing of any mother to improve relationships and build stronger bonds, let’s consider ways in which you might step out of yesteryear and seize the opportunities which exist in the year ahead:

Release the past. The greatest chance for a better year starts by confessing shortcomings and failures when you observe that confusion and bitter attitudes have taken root. A child who is harboring hurt and anger over past offenses deserves the healing balm of an apology that is short, authentic, and to the point. For example, the heartfelt words, “I’m sorry, Michael, for the times I’ve spoken hurtful words to you in my frustration. There have been times when I was angry and overreacted. I feel ignored and dishonored when you don’t show the respect I want from you,” expresses transparency and your genuine humanity. This opens the door to an authentic conversation and lowers defense mechanisms. The final words of any confession “Will you forgive me?” invites the offended party to release the urge to get even or harbor resentment going forward.

Role model a new standard. When a child sees positive behavior in an area where everyone had previously struggled, the message resonates throughout the house that people can grow and mature in relationship-building ways. Initiate change by verbalizing to the family that something new is being put into effect. Identify the behaviors, attitudes, and words you want to be emulated, and follow that up by repeatedly demonstrating what you want to see from your child. For instance, “I’ve been thinking about the way we speak to each other during the morning rush. I'm going to speak calmly, prepare better the night before, and get us to bed earlier!” sends the message that there are solutions to life’s problems. Changes of this nature create a sense of hope and excitement as new strategies are implemented and successfully executed.

Create visual reminders. Any change to the routine must be accompanied by small, repeatable action steps for success to be long term. Children quickly lose heart when proposed solutions fall by the wayside within a week or two. Consider sitting down with pen and paper, mapping out a step-by-step approach to overcome the challenge in view. Make it compelling, attractive to the eye, placed in plain sight, and simple enough to execute on the busiest of days. Plan to reward a reluctant child for cooperation on a regular basis until the desired changes become a habit, at which time rewards are no longer needed to motivate uninspired members of the household.

Each year offers a fresh opportunity to dream and hope for something that is better than before. Admitting your mistakes of the past in an age-appropriate and straightforward manner, employing the conscious steps of confession and asking for forgiveness, sets the stage for a clean slate and a fresh start. Role modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and habits we hope to see lived out in the home positions the family in a better place for growth and bonding. And finally, mapping out simple, repeatable actions steps with visual reminders and rewards in place communicates clearly what is expected in a reproducible, easy-to-execute manner.

The year behind us is a chapter completed, and future ones have yet to be conceived. Let us script this year’s pages with better dialogue and a sweeter disposition for the greatest enjoyment of our gift in time - the present.