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Celebrate Family Wins: Start the Year on a Positive Note

by | Jan 4, 2023 | Adoptive Parenting Skills/Tool|Blogs by Gayle Swift

When you celebrated the new year, did you review and celebrate your family wins as well as your personal wins? Did you savor the sense of accomplishment and add it to the excitement of the holiday? (If you have not yet done this, make time to do so this week.) It feels good to finish something well, to lift the weight of an unfinished project off our shoulders. Plus, it frees energy to make it available for a new goal.
How do you decide if something was a win, draw, or fail?
Do you give yourself the same grace you allot to family members, friends, and co-workers? Do your standards tilt toward perfectionism? In my experience, I find that we can often be extremely harsh critics of ourselves. We deny ourselves the thrum of pleasure that acknowledging something that we’ve done well could yield.
If we insist on judging things as a “loss” until they are totally complete, we contribute to our own sense of discouragement and overwhelm. We deny ourselves the small pleasure and burst of energy that small interim wins can deliver. Let’s face it, life is generally not about hitting things out of the park, but rather about continuing to play the entire game. Every inning has its highs and lows, its hits and errors. So, if you haven’t done so already, take some time to tally up your wins, both large and small, partial and complete.
What does all this tallying and celebrating have to do with parenting? Well, did you pause to identify your parenting wins? If you did, congratulations! If you did not, carve out some time to do it.
Ask yourself,
     Where did you meet your expectations?
     Where did you come close?
     Where did you significantly miss the mark?
As I have mentioned many times in previous blogs, I firmly believe that life is a learning conversation. Sometimes we are able to learn a specific lesson the first time a challenge appears in our lives, however, experience has taught me that this rarely happens. Usually, it takes a few times “at bat” before I can chalk a tick mark in the win column.
Identify your most significant learnings. Of what are you most proud? What life lessons were the most transformative? What unfinished lessons will you carry over to complete this year?
Next, consider your relationship with each of your children.
Ask yourself the same set of questions,
     Where did you meet your expectations?
     Where did you come close?
     Where did you significantly miss the mark?
Most of us recognize that our parenting responsibilities include teaching our children to be moral, socialized, and contributing members of society. Unfortunately, we often spend most of our time pointing out to our kids how they can do better, be better, work harder, persist longer, etc.
When parental interactions with children focus almost exclusively on assessment, correction, and discipline, instead of seeing parents as their main cheerleaders and soft place to land, they see them as a combination of warden and full-time evaluator. When this is the case, it is no surprise that our kids avoid sharing their struggles, worries, and concerns with us.
They will likely choose to spend less time with us to avoid feeling the weight of our disappointment over their inability to measure up. To understand this point more personally, recall the last time you had a job performance review.
I am not suggesting that you should be your child’s best buddy. That would be a mistake. I am proposing that you focus more on your relationship than on their achievements. Be an encourager, not a fault-finder.  Whether it is us feeling the burn of a boss who never seems satisfied or a child whose parents hyperfocus on pointing out where you fell short, None of us like to feel as if we are always falling short, not quite measuring up to expectations. So, affirm small wins, incremental wins–theirs as well as your own.
Competency and excellence do not happen quickly.
They are the fruit of persistence, determination, and learning through failure. Here’s another tip: let them see how you handle your own struggles. This helps them to see that life is a challenge for everybody, because, of course, it is. (I offer our usual caveat: do not overshare adult burdens and worries. Allow them to see enough so that they get a taste of reality and dispel the idea that everything is easy for adults.

How will you make 2023 a year in which you allow yourself and your children grace, to try, to fail, and appreciate the lessons learned along the way?

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