By Dr. Jan Hittelman

As we look towards our goals for the new year, here are twelve strategies that parents can focus on each month:

1. Expressing love and affection. We could all benefit from more positive feedback. Communicate your positive feelings to your child through words and actions.
2. Teach responsibility through empowerment. Including your child in the decision making process regarding rules and discipline will teach them to take responsibility for their behavior.
3. Practice being a good listener. In discussions with your child, try to listen more than talk. You will better understand your child’s feelings, thoughts and motives, which will make you a better advisor.
4. Improve self-esteem by fostering success experiences. Providing opportunities to engage in activities that your children enjoy, will lead to pride in their accomplishments.
5. Shift from control to advice: As children get older, parents need to shift from controlling to advising. This will help your child learn to be a responsible adult and reduce conflict in adolescence.
6. Choose your battles. If the offense is relatively minor provide brief feedback, a consequence (if needed), and then move on.
7. Asking versus telling. Be aware of your language- “Would you please get ready for bed” implies a choice, while “Please get ready for bed now” does not.
8. Catch your child being good. Too often we focus our attention on negative behaviors. Provide positive feedback when your child behaves appropriately.
9. Stop nagging. Repeating requests over and over trains children to tune parents out. At the third request, clearly state the consequence for noncompliance and follow through.
10. Reduce debating. Debating negotiable issues can often be healthy and productive. For nonnegotiable issues, calmly reflect back your child’s feelings and reassert your position (e.g. “I understand that you feel ____ about ____, but ____”).
11. Visiting the school of hard knocks. Allowing natural negative consequences to occur instead of protecting your children from them fosters healthy learning from their mistakes.
12. Go easy on yourself. Parenting is easily one of the toughest jobs you’ll ever have. Be forgiving of inevitable mistakes, while giving yourself credit for your hard work and dedication to your children.