We mothers put a lot of expectations on ourselves throughout the year — but we do so especially at this time of year, when we’re still setting goals and resolutions. Chances are many of us have already failed at whatever parenting resolution we made.
For instance, maybe the goal was to stop yelling at the kids — but a few days ago, our child frustrated us and we yelled at him. Or maybe our goal was to make lunch for our children every day so they don’t eat cafeteria food, but then we had a busy morning and rushed everyone out the door, without their lunches.
We want the best for our kids, so we set high goals — but this only sets us up for failure. When we set the bar at perfection, we will always miss it. The truth is, our kids don’t want perfection from us; they just want us.
I would like to encourage you to not set any strict parenting resolutions this year and instead focus on three questions.
I’ve been a pediatrician for over 30 years. In this time I’ve realized that all children, no matter their age, have the same three questions about their parents. If you can address these questions, you will set yourself up to be an excellent parent this year.
1.) “What do you believe about me?” The minute you step into your child’s presence, she is scouring you to try to find out what you think about her. Are you happy, stressed, frustrated?
Your child then internalizes her read on you. For example, if you smile at her when she walks in the room, she will interpret that as, “My mom smiled. She’s glad I’m here. She thinks I’m great; therefore, I am great.”
Be aware of your presence around your child. Whether positive or negative, it is telling her what you believe about her and that is telling her who she is.
2.) “How do you feel about me?” Kids need to know that you love them every hour of every day. Does that sound excessive? It’s not.
I’ve experimented with this in my medical practice. When I’m seeing a patient, I’ll ask him, “Tell me who loves you?” Since the parent is in the room with us, I’m curious about what he’ll say. You know what answer I get most of the time? “Well, I know my mom and dad probably do because they have to.”
Moms, we are so used to doing things for our kids (making them lunches, signing them up for activities) in order to show them we love them when really, they need to hear us say it. Again and again and again.
3.) “What are your hopes for me?” Most kids don’t think about their lives after the age of 25. As children and adolescents, they live as if the years after 25 will never come. That’s why they’re running around wanting to do anything they want all the time.
If you only get these three questions right, you’ve already won this year as a mother.
They need you, who understands that there is a lot of life after 25, to instill hope in their future. Talk about it with them. Tell them the hopes you have for them. That they will be loving. That they will be disciplined adults who have self-control so they can enjoy life. This will get them living and thinking beyond the here and now and give them hope for their futures.
Let go of the resolutions you are already failing. If you only get these three questions right, you’ve already won this year as a mother — and, more importantly, you’ve given your child the best start in life that will launch him to success and happiness.
Dr. Meg Meeker has practiced pediatrics and adolescent medicine for more than 30 years. She is the author of the book “Hero: Being the Strong Father Your Children Need” (Regnery Publishing), along with a number of digital parenting resources and online courses, including The 12 Principles of Raising Great Kids.