By Maureen Forman

As we embrace a new year, many of us pledge to be a nicer person, to be kinder, less negative, more compassionate. In short we make the promise to be the very best versions of ourselves this year.

For parents, that often involves grappling with the unnecessary fights we have with our children. And for parents that were raised in harsh households, this can be a particular challenge.  Even though we all pledge to never do anything our parents did, somehow we hear the same critical phrases, exasperated tones and reactive behavior that we swore we would never repeat coming right out of our very own mouths!

So here are some 3 tips that may be helpful:

1) Forgive yourself. We can only give what we were given until we learn new behaviors. That’s the way humans are built. All we can do is the best we know at a given time.

2) Teach Yourself:  Learn some new behaviors. This can begin very simply and a little change goes a long way. For example her are a few tricks that can de-escalate an argument with a child

  • Try simply not responding to your snotty child or asking to speak with them in an hour. In an hour, you have calmed down and thought through what you want to say. Most fights between parents and children (of all ages) escalate because parents think they have to say or do something RIGHT NOW! Which means everyone’s adrenaline is at its peak and no one is thinking about being kind or compassionate anymore. Everyone just wants to WIN! Remember: There is almost no discussion that can’t wait an hour.
  • Pretend that your reaction is being is being captured on an iPhone and will be uploaded to You Tube. Nothing makes humans behave better than knowing they are being observed. You would be amazed how most of us can summon appropriate words and volume when we believe we are being filmed.
  • Pretend that you are responding to an adult acquaintance or someone else’s child. It’s amazing how most of us can summon measured, empathic responses for children other than their own. Think of all the wonderful advice you have given to friends and relatives about how they should speak to their children. You do know how to do this!

3) Nourish yourself:  Make more time for walking, praying or learning. As our adult brain flourishes and adds new layers, the old patterns learned in childhood become proportionately smaller and less influential in our daily lives.

The key is to try something different. Once you see the results of feeding your adult self with nurturing energy and withdrawing energy from all needless conflict you will be a believer! You will see arguments decrease and harmony increase… and the very best version of you will get to shine!

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