Many of us give lip service to the idea of improving our parenting. We set half-hearted goals like, “I want to be more patient’” or “I’m going to stop yelling.” I say half-hearted because it’s not a real goal if there aren’t any associated timelines or deliverables.
If you haven’t figured out how you will get there—or how you will know when you’ve reached your goal—then you haven’t actually set a goal.
Which is too bad. Too bad because I know you would love to improve your parenting, and too bad because your teenager would love you to as well.
The beginning of the year is a timely occasion to take stock of your parenting and come up with some goals. This is what I call a development plan for your parenting. Sort of like your annual performance review at work. Your role as a parent is just as important as any professional role you may have, and just as deserving of your energy and honest appraisal.
How to Set (and Stick to) Parenting Goals:
1. What do you need to learn about?
What do we need to learn? Protecting our teens from the bully. Preventing our teens from being the bully. Sheltering our teens from porn? Understanding the sleep needs of our children and improving sleep hygiene in our homes? Finding alternatives to nagging? The list goes on and on.
We will never know all there is to know about parenting. Yet a process of continuous improvement is not only desirable, but also it’s entirely possible. Committing yourself to ongoing discovery makes life—and you—more interesting. If you’re feeling brave, ask your teenager what you could learn to help you be a better parent.
When I became a single parent, I had an urgent need to figure out how to support us financially. That was a steep learning curve, but an obvious first step in my parenting development plan. I discovered a library book that was so helpful I renewed it every three weeks for almost a year.
2. Find the support you need to reach your goal.
Where can we find support? Do you need a mentor? A coach? A counselor? Would it be useful to attend a conference? Take a class? Go to a retreat?
Perhaps it would be smart to join a support group. Or start a support group. Some of these options may require a commitment of time and money, but be realistic and specific about what kind of support will help you to actually reach your goal.
Seek out a parenting mentor. Talk to an expert. Initiate a dialogue with friends to exchange ideas and learn from each other. Whatever you choose to do, these two steps will ensure success: set aside the time in your calendar and write down your plan.
3. Be honest.
Make a personal assessment of your goals. There’s the parent you hope to become through learning and goal setting, and then there’s the parent you actually are today. How big is the gap between the two? What’s holding you back? What are you afraid might happen? In order to find out, you might have to be brutally honest with yourself.
4. Get serious about self-care.
None of your learning goals will be attained if you don’t prioritize self-care. All of us need ongoing ways to refresh body, mind, and spirit. When you feel tapped out, how do you re-connect with your purpose as a parent?
In recent years, I’ve had self-care as one of my learning goals. I have taken courses on meditation, and I also started a women’s money study group. And regular exercise, usually with friends, is a priority for me.
You probably have work plans at the office, targets to reach, and performance reviews. But your job isn’t more important than the work you do as a parent. Make a quick list of your ideas right now. Seize this opportunity to review the past year and set goals for the new one. It will help your parenting feel fresher, more dynamic, and full of possibility.