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Beware of New Year’s Resolutions

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by Jamie Roach

What do you hope for your children in 2020? If you could wave a magic wand and your children would grow or improve in one area of their lives, how would you want them to be different? Perhaps you wish they would be more kind to their siblings or more respectful to their parents? Or maybe you think it would be great if they started a new habit of picking up after themselves or always saying, “please” and ”thank you”?  

The problem with “New Year’s Resolutions” is that they are rooted in lack or deficiency, and a not-good-enough attitude. For example, one might make a resolution to eat less. Why? Because my body is not good enough as it is. Another person may make a resolution to pray more. Why? Because they believe they are not spiritual enough or wonder if God is disappointed with their lack of faith. 

Don’t hear what I am not saying. I am not saying a desire to be better or to improve is bad.  What I am saying is that it can be hurtful when we emphasize change at the expense of accepting who we are. This becomes increasingly important for children and adolescents who are struggling to like themselves and believe they are worthy of love as they are.  If parents come across with a “you can do better” message, our children are likely to hear “you are not good enough.” This negative message leads to shame, and shame is never helpful. So what do we do? 

Wise parents employ dialectical thinking. Thinking dialectically involves the ability to view an issue from multiple perspectives and to hold in unity seemingly contradictory information. It is having a “both/and” perspective rather than an “either/or” perspective. If you have adolescents, you intuitively know what I am talking about: Your 16-year-old is both a child and an adult. To try and decide if they are only a child or only an adult is going to put you at odds with reality and end up causing a lot of frustration. They are both a child and an adult. Faithful parenting is about learning to live in that tension. 

When it comes to your children’s behavior, the parent who is thinking dialectically understands their child may need both acceptance of where they are right now, as well as motivation to change. You don’t choose one over the other. Try holding on to both and live in the tension. You let your child know you accept them where they are while holding onto the belief they can be better. 

Before talking with your kids about how they can be better in 2020, take time to celebrate who and where they are today.  Make a list of 10 things you really like about your kids and slowly read it with them. Look them in the eyes and see into their hearts as you share what you love about them. Allow time for your unconditional love to seep into their souls. You can also make a list of 10 accomplishments they experienced in 2019 and slowly read it to them. Talk together about how each accomplishment made them feel.  

May this year be a year where your family connects deeply with each other and grows tall together. 

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  ― Maya Angelou
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