Become a better parent in 2021 in a few easy steps

You want to be a better parent to your child. That’s the first and most important step. But you can’t stop there…

 What does it mean to be a better parent and what steps should you take to get there?

It’s never too late to set goals and resolutions. From starting diets and making more money to living the life of your dreams, goals of virtually every shape and size bounce throughout the year. But a goal rarely heard, a goal believed to be among the most important ever set in mind and down on paper, is the goal to become a better parent.

Spending more quality time with the kids, practicing patience, creating special moments, teaching values and morals… all vital goals to a parent and a child.

But there’s a problem; it’s not strategies. Tips and tricks tumble from the pages of countless magazines, websites, and blogs. The problem is motivation.

Like any goal, if you lack the motivation to see it through, it’s as good as whispering in the wind. So today we’re going to walk you through a simple system to help you get and stay motivated to move those parenting resolutions from do to done!

First step: Define the outcome

Clarity is power when it comes to setting and achieving goals. If the outcome is vague, more cloud than concrete, your chance of success plummets. Why? Because there’s nothing actually to work toward (and, as you’ll see, no rewards or prices to uncover).

You need to be as clear as possible with your parenting goals, such that success is obvious when it happens. “Be a better parent” doesn’t make the cut. What does that mean? What steps should you take to get there? When will you know when you’ve done it?

Instead, a goal such as “Spend one night a week of quality time one-on-one with my daughter” is a step in the right direction. The outcome is clear, success is defined, the steps forward are easily uncovered.

Second step: Uncover the rewards

When you have a clear outcome, you also have the key to motivation: rewards and prices (prices are up next). Without diving too deep, think of motivation as a balance. On one side are all the reasons you have for wanting to do something. On the other side are all the influences against it (for example, pain is working against exercise). Whichever side carries more weight with you – logically, emotionally, spiritually – wins. If you have more positives than negatives linked up with, say, attending your son’s basketball games, you’ll do your best to be there. If not, you won’t.

Like any goal, if you lack the motivation to see it through, it’s as good as whispering in the wind.

The first part of the equation is the rewards, all the good things you associate with following through and acting on your goal. These are the ideas that kick the goal off to begin with, rewards such as a new body after exercise or more money after working for a promotion. To get and stay motivated, you need to make a detailed list of every good thing that will come from reaching your parenting goal. What will it do for you and your family? Emotionally, socially, financially, etc.

Think of rewards as weights – the more you have, the heavier the balance will tip toward action.

Third step: Uncover the prices

Rewards aren’t alone. They have a counterpart, which is often more powerful in getting people to act: Prices of procrastination. Think of prices as the rubber band snap of motivation – they are the negatives that will happen if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do.

For example, if you don’t help your teen practice driving before their driver’s test, they may fail. Two major prices to be paid for this laziness: First, their negative reaction to failing. Second, now Johnny can’t drive Sally to soccer as you had hoped. These negatives drive you to make sure you do what it takes to succeed to avoid paying the price. Like rewards, make an exhaustive, detailed list of every price you’ll pay if you fail to do what it takes to become the parent you hope to be. The more painful, the better.

Fourth step: Map the first steps

With your motivational weights in hand, you’re ready to go. But where do you go? That’s the final piece of the puzzle.

All the motivation in the world will do you no good if you don’t know what to do with it. You need a plan, but not the usual one. I don’t want you to create a long, drawn-out diagram of what you need to do; that only leads to resistance (negative weight on the balance). Instead, I want you to make a list of three simple steps you can take to move toward your goal. The simpler, the better.

The point is to build momentum. A wonderful thing happens when people take small steps toward their goals – the rewards and prices tied to success get stronger. They’re self-reinforcing.

If you want to spend more quality time with your kids, a major reward will be their reaction: Love and happiness. When you see that and you feel that positive reaction, the rewards you wrote on paper take on an entirely new meaning. They’re real, tangible. In turn, they become even more powerful and drive you further toward success. Each small step you take towards your goal will make it that much easier to continue down the path.

The above article has been co-authored by Jason Gracia, author of Shifting the Balance.