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10 questions to encourage engaged parenting in a new year

As the last days of this year tick off of the calendar, many people are drawn to introspection and reflection. For parents, these last days of the year offer space to sit down and intentionally consider how you are working to become the parent you want to be for your children.

If you have a few moments of downtime this week, I encourage you to not only think through the answers to these questions, but also take time to write down your answers. If you don’t have time for a written response, consider speaking your answers out loud to increase the impact of your reflections.

Parenting personality

1. How do you think your children have experienced you as a parent this past year?

If your children are old enough to respond (and if you are feeling brave!), you might ask them this question. For those with younger children, take a moment to get behind their eyes and think about how they see you and experience you on a day-to-day basis.

2. How do you want your children to experience you as a parent in this new year?

I desire for my children to know that people are more important than projects. For me, that means I need to be more attentive to how I manage my time. I want for my children to experience me as a mother who is genuinely engaged with them throughout each day. In the coming year, I want to be more affectionate, less frazzled, more gracious, and less preoccupied.

Hit the highlights

3. What aspects of parenting brought you the most joy this past year?

It is so easy at the end of the year to think back on all the ways we believe we missed the mark, rather than celebrating our personal best. Take time to relive and relish your Parenting Hall of Fame moments from this past year.

4. What are you looking forward to with great anticipation in this new year?

As our toddler grows through the twos and into the threes, I know we have exciting times ahead. I can only imagine how her vivacious, life-loving personality will develop as she matures in the next year. We are taking a special trip as a family in the summer, and I know we will come home with many memories and stories.

Strengths and challenges

Photo by playingwithbrushes

5. As you survey your parenting toolbox, which tools do find to be working well for your family, and which tools could use some sharpening?

I know exactly which tools I need to seek out and add to my own parenting toolbox. I want to learn more about how to respond rather than react when situations become tense. I know that the moments I choose a calm response rather than an agitated reaction are the moments when the outcome is more peaceful for everyone.

Of the tools that are working the best for me as a parent, I have to say the most helpful is connecting with parenting communities (online and face-to-face) to share insight, advice, feedback, and perspective. The older my children are, the more I realize that I need the support and friendship of others to encourage me in the day-to-day work of parenting. I have been blessed by amazing communities of support in the past year.

Building connections

6. How have you pursued your children in the past year?

Sometimes we take for granted that our children want to be known by us. Children are not developmentally able to grasp many abstract concepts such as love, interest, and devotion. Parents must find concrete ways to deliberately and demonstratively put actions to our words of love.

7. What actions will you take to be more engaged with your child in this new year?

With babies and younger children, this can be something as simple as spending a little extra time reading favorite books or splashing around in the bathtub with them. For older children, a genuine interest in what interests them might show them you want to really get to know the person they are becoming.

Mending missteps

Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

8. Is there any aspect of your relationship with your child that has been strained by unforgiveness or regret?

The dawn of a new year is an ideal time to start fresh and new. Every relationship will have pain, misunderstanding, and frustration at some point. Now is the time to examine the reality of your relationship with your children – not to bring more pain to the surface, but rather to actively seek out healing.

9. Is there an unresolved issue for which you need to offer your child forgiveness, or do you need to ask for forgiveness from your child?

I had to stop and ask for the forgiveness of my daughters today in the parking lot of our local discount store after a particularly unhappy shopping trip. I had been terse, short, and unkind to each of them as we zoomed through the store. There was an obvious disconnection between the three of us, and it is remarkable how quickly we can reconnect once forgiveness has been asked for and given.

10. What actions will you take to nurture a healthy connection with your children in this new year?

A great way to promote engaged parenting is to build in checkpoints through the day or through the week. Perhaps each night at bedtime could become a special time of conversation in which you talk through the joys and the pains of the day. Maybe every Sunday night in your home allows time for a family meeting in which each member of the family has time to share thoughts, problems, hurts, and encouragement.

Engaged parenting doesn’t happen by accident. It requires action, reflection, and assessment. As we embark on the journey that is 2010, there will be bountiful opportunities to grow more into the parent you want to be.

Do you have year-end rituals or practices that pertain to parenting to share? What questions or comments would you add to this starting point?

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  1. MMW

    This is an absolutely BEAUTIFUL parenting reflection exercise. I will ponder these questions over the next few days.
    What a lovely gift for me as a parent – to reflect on my success and shortcomings
    What a lovely gift to my children – to have a better parent in the new year.

    • Megan

      Thank you! I hope it will be a blessing to you as you move forward into this new year!

  2. Shae

    Wow. Awesome-love the idea so much! Will definitely be taking the time to do this. Thank you

    • Megan

      It does take a little time, but it’s something you can revisit throughout the coming year for “check-ups.” I hope you find it encouraging!
      .-= Megan´s last blog ..Special Edition Showcase: DIY Robot =-.

  3. Rachel B

    Check out . My family has taken two family courses from them through our church.
    We started with ‘Parenting is Heart Work’ which helps you discipline without having to use spanking as a first step. (spanking is only one tool that can be used in a ‘toolbox of consequences’) This book/seminar is great to start with if you have younger children. You work on heart changes not behavior modification.
    We as a family just finished a study based on ‘Say Goodbye to Whining, Complaining, and Bad Attitudes in You and Your Kids’ just before Christmas. This one is based on honoring and how an honoring person (parent or child) reacts to situations.
    The website give a lot of great information, I get the newsletter which is a weekly excerpt from one of the books and how to use it in family life.

    • Megan

      Thanks for the link, Rachel! I’ve heard good things about the Heart Work book. I will have to check that out!

  4. steadymom

    Amazing post, Megan! I will spend time pondering these questions as well. I do want to be an “engaged” mama.

    .-= steadymom´s last blog ..A New Mom for a New Year =-.

    • Megan

      Thanks, Jamie. And I know you are already a very, very engaged mama. Perhaps this article should have been written by you!
      .-= Megan´s last blog ..Special Edition Showcase: DIY Robot =-.

  5. Micha

    Thank you for these thoughts. I think, I’ll ask my children later about their favourites in the last year and their wishes for our family life in the new year.
    .-= Micha´s last blog ..Ananas und Chili / pineapple and chili =-.

    • Megan

      Micha and Cynthia – I hope this encourages some helpful, hopeful, inspiring conversation in your families. 🙂
      .-= Megan´s last blog ..Special Edition Showcase: DIY Robot =-.

  6. Suzanne

    I have been thinking of some of the changes that I could make to improve our family life and one of the changes I plan on is to be off the computer from the time the children ( I have 4 all school aged from 2010) get home from school til bedtime.

    I think by changing this it will really help me be more engaged with my children and hopeful with lead to more peaceful and productive afternoons.

    Thanks for provoking my thoughts.

    • Denise

      I have that same plan!
      .-= Denise´s last blog .. =-.

    • Megan

      I agree – that sounds like a really, really good plan, one that I know I could benefit from following. Thank you for that.
      .-= Megan´s last blog ..Special Edition Showcase: DIY Robot =-.

  7. Emily

    This is such a powerful post! I am definitely with Megan on #2. I have a hard time NOT putting projects before spending time with DS, and it’s something I’ve been thinking and praying about a lot lately, an area I want desperately to change in. I want DS to remember me as an engaged, loving and attentive mother, not one who cared more about her online business than about him.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..Eight Reasons To Eat Spinach =-.

    • Megan

      It’s really, really easy to let projects take priority. I am reminded of this on an almost hourly basis! And there are many days when I survey the way my time was spent and realize, “Wow. I messed up today.” But I think once we set off down this path that any progress is good for our families (and ultimately for ourselves!).
      .-= Megan´s last blog ..Special Edition Showcase: DIY Robot =-.

  8. Laura

    Thank you for this. I don’t have any year-end rituals per se, except that we do stay in for our New Year celebration, and ring in the new year with whichever children are old enough to stay up. But I love the idea of taking the time to reflect on how our parenting is working, for us and for our children.

    I will say the most important decision we have made, the one that has had the most impact on our children and our family life as a whole, is to have dinner together, at the table, every night. It is such an important part of our family culture, that I cannot imagine life without it!
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..Planning a Kitchen Garden =-.

    • Megan

      That sounds like wonderful mainstay in your family life, and one that your children will treasure long after they have left the nest.

  9. Lisa

    I have been a step-mom and mom for 17 years with 6 children, and I’ve learned SO much! And a lot is because I’ve messed up SO much!

    But I am thankful for a gracious God, and His example of forgiveness…
    it helps me to lead my children by being a forgiving parent…
    which helps them to be forgiving of me when I blow it!

    I tweet regularly (@imgarysgirl)- and blog randomly – on our parenting – both the good and the bad! (actually, just tweeted about your item #1 on 12/26/09)

    thank you, sweet “simple mom” for sharing and helping so much.
    blessings, lisa

    • Megan

      This is where I am – I am want to parent my children the way God parents me. I am also so, so thankful for His forgiveness. Thanks for sharing this heartfelt response.
      .-= Megan´s last blog ..Special Edition Showcase: DIY Robot =-.

  10. Tricia

    Thank you so much for this. I think I’m even going to be brave and ask my kids for input. Eek! 😉 Again, thank you as so many of these questions are things that I know I need to address, even if I’m reluctant to do so.

    I wish your family a very happy New Year.
    .-= Tricia´s last blog ..Charlotte Update =-.

  11. Susan

    Great insight and wonderful reflective questions for all parents to think about. If we are not focused on improving our skills, we will not move forward and become “better” at the job. I will be asking some of these questions of myself AND to some of the moms I coach. Thanks for sharing!
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Am I the Only Old Fashioned Mom Left? =-.

    • Megan

      Susan and Tricia – I do hope some great conversations come from this! It’s a wonderful time of year to pause and reflect and invite some subtle changes.

  12. PearTreeMom

    Wonderful questions and reflections. I love the idea of reviewing the year as a family. My husband and I always take time to do that together, and I’m thinking my older daughter is getting old enough at least to be part of the conversation. I’m looking forward to learning from this past year and forging ahead to great things with my babies this year! I’ve learned so much about the kind of mom I am and how I can be a better one!


  13. Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience

    Thoughtful and mindful questions, Megan… *thank you.*

    A family ritual for New Year’s?
    We have a family “Memories” (unlined) journal, and each year end, each child fills their page with their favorite memories of the year, a verse that meant something to them, a few of their favorite photographs.

    Each New Year’s reading over their pages is a meaningful, profound experience. How their handwriting and faces and stories change — a glimpse into the wonder of us and the gift of now.

    Every blessing on your New Year’s, Megan…
    You bless…

    All’s grace,
    .-= Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience´s last blog ..When You Can’t Figure Out What the Answer Should Be =-.

    • Megan

      What a beautiful example of a family’s collected memories from the year. I bet those journals are such treasures to all of you!

  14. Dominique

    Great reflections.
    I too hope to be more “engaged” mama in 2010.

  15. Melissa

    Thankyou for these reflections. I’m going to be a new mum in Feb, so these things are really on my mind at the moment. As I want to try EC, I will need to be really engaged! Some of the comments have also been very interesting and helpful, particularly those who want to spend less time online. That’s something I’m going to have to do too!
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..New Year’s Resolutions Part 3 – Achieving Your Goals =-.

  16. Elizabeth

    My parenting and the successes/challenges I’ve had are definitely what have been on my mind the most as I reflect on the past year and set goals for the coming one. I have so many things to work on and improve, but recognizing the areas where I did a good job as a parent the past year certainly encourage me! All of the areas you mentioned are great ones to consider as I do my best to be and stay an engaged mommy to my kiddos. Thank you for this perfectly-timed post!

  17. Adriana

    This is just what I needed!
    My mind has been rambling about my mothering skills, and I really needed something to make me focus not just on the bad, but on the good things too and to give myself some insight on how I’d like things to be and how to achieve it.
    Thank you so much for the inspiration!

  18. Sarah@EmergingMummy

    I just finally read this and OH MY WORD. So timely for today. *tears* Thank you, Megan. You have a gift and today God used it to truly work in my heart.

  19. Allie

    What a wonderful and useful post to ring in the New Year! Thanks Megan!

  20. Steph @ Problem Solvin Mom

    I love the reflective and fresh feeling I have this time of year, what a great list to mull over, Megan! I am definitely “growing into” being a mother of two…with much to learn, but thankfully with so much love as well.

    Wishing you many blessings this year, XOXO
    .-= Steph @ Problem Solvin Mom´s last blog ..50 posts floating through my head, not much in your reader =-.

  21. Cathy at nurturestore

    A wonderful and thought provoking post. I work with children and as part of my job I have to observe and reflect on their development and how I support them. I agree that parents should do this too and your questions are really helpful with this. I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to put play at the centre of my relationsip with my daughters this year.
    .-= Cathy at nurturestore´s last blog ..2010 The Year of Play =-.

  22. chris

    this is very thought provoking and a good parenting exercise.. i was wondering if i can quote you and post the questions on my site?

  23. Shelley

    Wonderful post! I stumbled acrossed this (and other great websites) today. I work away from home 2 days/wk and relish my time with my 2 daughters, ages 3 and 5. This past year I found myself struggling in ways that I can’t even put my finger on. I wasn’t engaging in my children the way I wanted or needed to. This year is a new start for me. 2 things that have helped me tremendously were dumping Facebook (gasp!) and coming up with a motto “I want to start the day not let the day start me”. Meaning I am a much happier, engaging person when I have time to myself before everyone else rises. Getting up earlier has worked wonders for me already.

    Thanks for sharing your tips and I look forward to reading much, much more of your website!

  24. Arohan

    I am a dad and I think these are the reflections dads should be having as well. My boys are pre-school age and I am really looking forward to shaping their character and personality and giving them experiences that will make them curious and wonder.

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