January is the time most of us make resolutions and set new goals. It’s a time to start fresh and begin again.  It feels good to get a fresh start doesn’t it?

The same is true for our children.  But we often fail to allow them a fresh start.  I don’t think we do this on purpose.  We just don’t really think about it.  Just as we strive to better ourselves, we need to find ways to encourage our children to better themselves.  We need to be careful not to brand them with a label based on past behaviors, failures and habits.  Children often live up to what we say, with or without our words, about them. Our words can be self-fulfilling prophecies of sorts. Be careful what you say in front of them, and be as affirming as you can in front of others.  If you need to vent or discuss their challenges with someone, be careful that they are not in earshot. And don’t attack their character. Remember, bad choices do not mean a bad child.

Have discussions with your child about goals they would like to set for this new year.  Make sure they are specific ways to better themselves and grow closer to God. Tell them they can start with a clean slate.  While there are necessary consequences for negative behaviors, make sure your child knows their mistakes are not who they are.  Enable them to learn from their mistakes and help them avoid them in the future. Don’t let their failures define them.  We all struggle with this, and our children are no exception. Encourage and allow restarts.

Along those same lines, be good to yourself too. Forgive yourself.   Parenting is hard.  We all make mistakes.  But it’s okay.  Be honest with yourself and your children. Let them watch you forgive yourself and give yourself second chances to make things better. This modeling will show them how to handle their own mistakes.  So often we allow guilt to guide our actions, and we overcompensate for our mistakes to the detriment of our kids, as well as ourselves. This year, determine to be the best version of yourself.  And to help your child do the same.  But be realistic.  Plan for failures, but don’t surrender to them.  Regroup and try again. Persevere.  Keep moving forward, even if with baby steps…or some backsliding.  Work together and hold each other accountable.  Most importantly, encourage each other along the way. It may not be easy, but it will be worth all the effort!