Given that this is the first column of a new year, I’m proposing a number of parenting New Year’s resolutions for my readers to consider. The list is by no means comprehensive. It’s just a good beginning on what is probably a much-needed family revolution:
1. We will not throw expensive “event parties” for our children on their birthdays. Instead, we will confine all birthday celebrations to our family, including extended family. We will keep it uncomplicated: a special dinner of the birthday boy or girl’s favorite food, a cake, the obligatory song and a few simple gifts, mostly clothing or other useful things.
2. We will spend at least as much time helping our children develop good manners as we do helping them get good grades in school, which means we will cut back significantly on the time helping with the latter (in consideration of the fact that good manners, which are expressions of respect for others, will take one further in life than will good grades). Each week, we will work on one specific social courtesy, such as saying “excuse me” when you walk in front of someone. Taking two weeks off, that’s 50 courtesies a year!
3. We will show our love for our neighbors by properly disciplining our children, insisting on proper behavior and reprimanding immediately (even if that means in front of other people) when they behave otherwise, and on those occasions we will also insist they apologize appropriately.
4. If we have not already done so, we will assign a routine of daily chores to each of our children (at least those who have reached their third birthdays) and we will insist that said chores be done — and done properly — before they engage in recreation or relaxation.
5. When our children ask us for cell phones, we will tell them that they may have cell phones when they are able to pay for them as well as the monthly bills.
6. When our children complain that they are the only kids who don’t have cell phones (and do chores), we will tell them that learning how to be different is character-building.
7. Our children will not be able to order customized meals unless we take them to a restaurant. At home, they will eat what we are eating, and they will sit at the table until they are finished. We will do this so that when they are invited to eat at someone else’s home, they will be the best of guests.
8. We will surely bond with our children, but we will not bond with them in the marital bed, nor will we bond with them in their beds.
9. In keeping with No. 8, we will put our marriage first and our children second … for their sake as well as ours. They will revolve around us; thus, they will not grow up thinking the world revolves around them.
10. If I am a single parent, I will take good care of myself for my sake as well as my children’s. I will have an active, adults-only, social life. I will take plenty of personal time to simply relax and do those things I like to do. I will do all of that so that my children will not ever think the world revolves around them.
11. We/I will put our/my children to bed early so that we/I can end each day reconnecting as a couple or relaxing as a single.
12. We will eat as a family around our own table at least six nights a week.
13. We will keep after-school activities to a minimum, and only let them enroll in activities that do not prevent us from delivering on No. 11.
14. Instead of buying our children expensive things, we will help them develop hobbies and take them to museums and on trips.
15. We will do all of the above so that when they grow up, they will have wonderful memories of their childhoods and raise our grandchildren in a manner that honors us.
Psychologist Rosemond answers questions on his website at www.rosemond.com.