New Year’s Resolutions: Yeah, I struggle with those.

For me, family life is a constant work-in-progress that doesn’t follow the whims of the calendar.  Just when I’ve mastered one dimension of parenting, my kids jump to a new stage of their development.

That said, I want to grow as a parent. There’s nothing on earth I’d rather do really, really well. What I am learning is this: “really well” often begins with “good enough.”

Embrace Better Than Nothing

I’m not looking for a parenting makeover. Instead, as I look ahead to a new year, I am looking for small steps we can take, as a family, to become a little smarter, stronger and kinder.

Laura Vanderkam — a busy mother of four, time management expert, and author of Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done — reminds her readers that “something is better than nothing” when it comes to forming good habits. She wrote, “letting go of big expectations in the short run can allow for more productivity in the long run. And the long run is really what it’s all about.”

When I adopt a better-than-nothing attitude, it helps me celebrate the little things I am doing that match up with my core parenting values. For example, here are three big ideas that guide me:

  • I want my kids to develop strong health and wellness habits.
  • I want them to to be creative, curious learners.
  • I want them to be resilient, kind and brave.

But mornings are mornings: too busy, with lunches to be packed and sneakers to be found. And evenings are evenings: filled with schoolwork, dinner, emails, laundry, PJs, and tooth-brushing.

When ideals and reality collide, I find peace in “good enough.” Here’s what that looked like in our house last night. We have a family goal to exercise every day, and so that quick kitchen dance party with the kids was better than nothing — as was grabbing a handful of carrot sticks and orange slices to accompany leftover mac and cheese. Read aloud time before bed is our favorite family habit, but when bedtime dragged on past the point of patience, one very short Mo Willems book was better than nothing. I may have gotten a little too frustrated when bedtime dragged on and on, but that gave me the opportunity to model apologizing — because that’s what we do when we hurt people’s feelings. And that was good enough for one day.

(Oh, and 20 minutes of quiet time in the afternoon while the kids watched Let’s Go Luna? That was absolutely better than nothing.)   

Enlist Your Kids’ Creativity

Sometimes in my rush to solve a problem (aka Make Things All Better), I forget this simple truth: when it’s the kids’ idea, they are much more excited and motivated to jump in and help. As you think about parenting goals, get the kids involved.

Is mealtime a battle? Let them help you plan a menu for the week. Is their room a mess? Let them brainstorm solutions with you. Are mornings a stressful rush? Ask them how they feel about it and make a collaborative plan to make this time a little bit better.

For me, my family has been working on mornings. Recently, my 7-year-old shared with me that she hates the “rushy rush” of the morning routine. So I asked her what we could do about it.

“Maybe I could get dressed before breakfast,” she suggested. “Then I won’t be looking for my shoes when the bus is coming.”

“And what can I do to help?” I asked.

“Mommy, if we are running late, can you turn it into a ‘silly rush’ instead of a ‘rushy rush?’ Like, make it a game to get ready?”

When I was a kid, my mom would often get up early to bake homemade muffins. That may never be me, but I can use a silly pirate voice instead of a grumpy voice when I remind the kids to put on their shoes! And that is gloriously, joyfully good enough.

About Deborah Farmer Kris

Deborah Farmer Kris spent several years as a K-12 educator and as an associate at Boston University’s Center for Character and Social Responsibility. She is a regular contributor for MindShift and the mother of two young children. You can follow her on Twitter @dfkris.

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