With the best of intentions, when the ball dropped on Jan. 1, 2020, you resolved to better yourself as a parent, keep your house organized, so on and so forth. While it seemed like a good plan at the time, maybe you fell off the train or never got on. We’re here to tell you that it’s perfectly OK, because we’re all human, and are trying our best to raise our tiny humans.
In fact, according to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, most people fail to achieve their New Year’s goals. If you’re part of that group, spring is the perfect time to finally achieve that clean slate.
When it comes to getting a handle on it all, we asked the experts where to begin.
Your role as a parent
Society puts a lot of pressure on parents to perform to extremely high expectations. It’s important to understand and accept that failures will happen and that is OK.
“Parenting is a long marathon, not a quick sprint,” says Dr. Brigid Beaubien, professor and graduate coordinator for Early Childhood Education at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. “A lot of parents sweat the small stuff, and forget that this too shall pass.”
Beaubien says that as a rule of thumb, it’s important to look for patterns in behavior and remember that one incident does not make a pattern.
“It’s the rule of three’s,” she says. “One incident is isolated, the second time it becomes concerning and after the third time, you should take action.”
When parents evaluate their parenting style, Veronica Ursetto, owner and therapist at Chicago-based Integrative Perspectives Counseling and Consulting, encourages them to first set their personal goals for parenting. After “slowing down to breathe,” she recommends taking a realistic look and choosing one area of change for focus. A few questions that parents might answer in this step are: what is my motivation for change, what are the barriers to change and what is my model for change?
“Start there,” Ursetto says. “Once you can clearly answer these questions, then you can create small goals for yourself. You can even include your family.”
One such goal she sees many parents struggle with is how to be more present in the digital age.
“Model for your children by putting your electronics down. You can even start small by making one meal a week ‘phone/TV free,'” Ursetto suggests. “There are many other ways we can be present with our children, and I encourage families to talk about what’s needed in each individual home.”
Your kids’ behavior
The kids are acting out. What else is new? Instead of immediately resorting to yelling and punishments, Beaubien suggests taking a step back to look for a potential underlying cause for bad behavior. Whether its attention seeking, hunger or tiredness, parents should first address what’s driving the behavior versus the behavior itself, she says.
“The first place I look when trying to find the culprit of a change in behavior is sleep schedule,” says Pediatric Sleep Consultant Maggie Moore, owner of the digitally-based Moore Sleep. “It plays a huge role in your child’s ability to self-regulate and their emotions. Not getting the right amount of sleep can cause your child to act out, fight sleep, have a hard time falling asleep and have a difficult time staying asleep.”
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to sleep issues, Moore says the best way to get your child’s sleep back on track is an earlier bedtime. Even moving it up 15 to 30 minutes can make a big difference, she says.
“Night sleep is the most restorative sleep,” Moore says. “Naps are only a temporary fix.”
Dr. John Dorsey, pediatrician at Beaumont Hospital, says if you suspect your child has a behavioral problem, it is best to meet with your pediatrician or health care provider to evaluate treatment options.
“You want to start with the people who know your children best,” Dorsey says. “A doctor who has been seeing your child on a regular basis since birth can oftentimes first rule out a physical or developmental problem and make recommendations on specialists to follow up with.”
Many times, he says, kids act out when they experience mild physical problems that have gone undiagnosed. That can be as simple as allergies or anemia.
“Don’t ever ignore ongoing behavior issues that are socially unacceptable, because they can signify something more,” he says.
Home organization isn’t easy for anyone, and when you throw dishes, laundry and general cleaning up in the mix, it can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task to tackle it all.
Beth Spiroff, owner of Detroit-based Beth Spiroff Professional Organizing, suggests first starting with surface areas where clutter tends to pile up – such as mail on the counter tops, homework, etc.
“Surface areas are the first thing you see, so they tend to give us the most anxiety,” Spiroff says. “You’ll notice an immediate difference when surface areas are clean.”
When it comes to larger areas, such as kids’ rooms and playrooms, Spiroff suggests hanging clothes in the closet as opposed to jamming them in a drawer, and using storage bins for individual items.
One of her favorite “hacks,” she says, is getting kids involved in decluttering the house by implementing a sticker-based chore chart.
Spiroff also suggests going through toys with your kids and choosing a place to donate them.
“It is a good teaching opportunity to explain that there are kids that are not as fortunate as them, and that some of them didn’t get toys for the holidays,” she says. “Take them to Salvation Army or a charity and let them be a part of the donation process.
An overly hectic schedule can also negatively impact your family’s well-being, says Mat Riley, life coach and owner of Life Work Balance Coach in Detroit, who cautions that when too many things are on the family calendar, activities and events can easily slip through the cracks.
“When you have that overwhelming sense of having to do a million things, you don’t really find gratification in anything, and quality goes down,” Riley says. “If you help everybody, you really help nobody.”
He encourages parents to learn how to delegate tasks, whether it be to a spouse, friend or neighbor.
“While it is hard to give ownership of a task to someone else, you have to fully let go and empower others that you trust.”
Riley also encourages moms to block off weekly time for themselves on their schedule, giving them something to look forward to. It can be meditation, exercise or other avenues for self-care, he says.
Putting it all in perspective
Dr. Ivy Ge, author of The Art of Good Enough: The Working Mom’s Guilt-Free Guide to Thriving While Being Perfectly Imperfect, says at the end of the day, it’s important for parents to acknowledge that no parent is perfect in one or all of these areas.
“As parents, we must know our limits and not beat ourselves up. We must let go of unreasonable expectations,” she says. “Know what you are good at, focus your time and energy on the things that are important to you, and use those strengths to improve your lives.”
Dr. Ivy Ge: How to live better
Looking for even more tips on how to get a better grip on everything going on in your life? Dr. Ivy Ge offers this expert advice.
Reverse engineer a plan for your life
A lot of moms have sacrificed career or dreams for kids. “Think about your old dream and what got you excited and refind that passion,” Ge says.
Stop comparing yourself to others
There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes of those perfect postings we see on social media, Ge says. “Competition is toxic,” she says. “Know that we all shine different ways.”
Always take time for yourself to recharge
Whether it’s a breathing exercise, a workout or pampering, focus on what makes you feel good about yourself, Ge suggests.
Live more simply
Realize that material things aren’t what truly bring you comfort. Go through your things and donate what you don’t use anymore so it can bring joy to someone in need.