5 Simple Resolutions for a Happier Family

Resolve to smile more in 2012.Resolve to smile more in 2012.New Year's resolutions abound. Even if you don't make resolutions at the start of a new year, it's virtually impossible to not think about what you want to improve over the next 366 days. (Remember, it's a leap year!) If you're a parent, you might even be asking yourself what you'll do differently in the months ahead.

Do you resolve to be a better parent? I know I do. A few years ago I wrote about the "4 Ls" to being a better parent: Lighten up, Let it go, Listen, and Laugh. These tips still apply to my life as a person and a parent. But my kids are older now and as we've all grown a few years, I've learned a few more lessons along the way.

Here are five resolutions I've come up with to foster a happier family life summed up in one nice word: SMILE.

Let's break it down, shall we?

Smile.
Smiles are beautiful. They feel good. And like laughter, smiles are contagious. Smiles may even make you healthier. (Watch this TED video on the Science of Smiling.) I'm not saying you should repress negative feelings. But when you find yourself getting irritated or annoyed with your kids, take a deep breath, think of something wonderful and smile. You're mood will change. If your kids are cranky, your smiles might make them feel better, too. (It doesn't hurt to add a touch of silliness to your smiles.)

Move. In a parenting funk? Put on some music and dance with your kids. Go for a family walk. Talk your children to the park and play tag with them. Ride your bikes to the store. Jump rope with them. Simple stuff. You'll smile, you'll laugh, and you'll have fun.

Ignore the noise.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Steve Jobs: Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." Apply this belief to your parenting life. You know your children best and whenever you are faced with a challenge, trust your heart and intuition. Ignore the noise.

Look into your kids' eyes when they are talking to you
. You say you're listening, but are you really, truly listening? Look your kids -- or anyone, for that matter -- in the eyes during conversation. It will force you to listen wholeheartedly. Don't look at your iPhone, iPad, laptop, the newspaper. Be an active listener. You're kids will notice. (Added bonus: You're teaching them how to be good listeners, too.)

Exp
lore. Routine is good for families. It's okay to admit that it's monotonous, too. So find ways to explore new ground. No need to travel to exotic locations. Go to the library and take out books on places you want to visit as a family. Make a family life list. Find new landmarks and historic spots in your own town. Find a new trail to hike. Visit different restaurants with the kids. You'll find new favorites and show your kids that curiosity doesn't go away as you grow up.

What are your parenting resolutions for 2012?


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