CNN Parenting

8 resolutions for better parenting in the New Year

Story highlights

  • Give kids what they need the most: your attention
  • Frustration is understandable, but yelling is the least productive way to manage it

Go Ask Your Dad is parenting advice with a philosophical bent as one dad explores what we want out of life, for ourselves and our children, through useful paradigms and best practices. Share your insight at the CNN Parenting Facebook page.

(CNN)If you're looking to improve your parenting, you're not alone. In my opinion, it's an essential area of course correction, up there with weight loss, better eating and better spending, arguably more essential.

What's beautiful about parenting resolutions is that your kids benefit too, and likely your spouse and any potential future grandkids. You get a lot of bang for your resolution buck.
As with any resolution, honestly examine areas where you feel you could be doing better or want to improve. Below are eight parenting resolution thought-starters in categories we all probably need to give more attention in the coming year.

    Being there

    There's a lot of talk, many articles and a long shelf of books on mindful parenting. But it all boils down to this: When you're with your kids, give them full, curious and happy attention.

    Go Ask Your Dad is parenting advice with a philosophical bent as one dad explores what we want out of life, for ourselves and our children, through useful paradigms and best practices. It considers old problems in new ways, and new problems that previous generations didn't face.

    Listen to them, respond, don't let yourself be distracted by your phone, or future-thinking or your own agenda. Be fully there for them, giving what they need the most: your attention, combined with an openness that encourages them to share whatever is on their mind or what's happening with them at that moment.
    The dividends of this effort are deep and long-long lasting -- from fewer tantrums to stronger bonds. If you only pick one resolution, make it this one.

    Be more laissez-faire about some things

    You may be burdening yourself with milestones and cultural expectations that really don't matter if you pause to think about them. Here are some developmental achievements you don't really need to waste time, energy and anxiety pushing. Rest assured these will almost always work themselves out in due time.
    • Crawling
    • Talking
    • Walking
    • Potty training
    • Bathing regularly
    • Learning to read
    • Riding a bike
    Here are some things that maybe you shouldn't be so laissez-faire about, even at early ages.
    • Good nutrition
    • Enough sleep
    • Exposure to nature
    • Good manners
    • Kindness

    Don't drive under the influence of your phone

    Here comes your PSA: More than 40,000 people died on US roads in 2016, according to National Safety Council estimates. Many roadway fatalities involve drunken driving, speeding and not wearing seat belts (so don't do any of those things, clearly), but increasingly, accidents are being caused by people texting or talking while driving.
    Fifty-one percent of teens reported seeing their parents checking and/or using their mobile devices while driving, according to a Common Sense Media poll last year. And when you repeatedly model a behavior in front of your kids, that's called teaching.
    Once they have a license, do you want your kids texting or talking while they drive? Do you want other drivers texting or talking while driving anywhere near your children? Me neither. When you stop doing it yourself, you are immediately modeling the behavior you want from them when it's their time to be behind the wheel. And help spread this gospel to friends and family. The lives we save may be our own.

    Yell less, breathe more

    I'd like to meet the parent that hasn't been driven to the point of yelling at some point (or many points) in their parenting life. That level of frustration is understandable, but yelling is the least productive way to manage it.
    And it can do damage. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan found that tweens and teens whose parents yelled for discipline had increased behavioral issues including being violent. Another study linked yelling to lowering a child's self-esteem and increasing the likelihood of depression.
    Plus, it just ramps up the family stress level all around. In her book, "Ready, Set, Breathe," Carla Naumburg shares some simple exercises to interrupt the anger that is rising in you and respond when you are more calm. An easy one is to place your hands on a surface, like the counter, and feel your feet rooted into the ground. Then breathe, count to 10 and respond after you have lowered your stress response.
    You can also walk away (give yourself a time out), lay down on your bed or a couch and breathe slowly. You can even tell your kids that you need to take a break before you respond to them, because you want to calm yourself. That's great modeling for the times when they feel the same level of frustration.
    There's one rare exception: if your child is in immediate danger and needs to comply. Last year I yelled at my daughters when a bear entered our campground. "Come to me, right now!" I shouted as soon as I saw it walking toward them. The older one compl