Parenting Guru: New Year, New Style, New Me

Admittedly, 2012 was not a banner year for my family. There were plenty of ups, downs, and in-betweens. Yet, as we heralded in 2013, I made a command decision for myself; a decision designed to shake up my parenting style, my ideals and even my methodology. What is it, you ask? Listen more, talk less.

What's the reason for the change?

In November of 2012, my spouse of 16 years and I decided to separate and move toward a divorce. Because of extenuating circumstances, the judge in our case awarded me sole custody of our 11-year-old daughter. Yet, even more than that, the judge has not allowed my soon-to-be-ex-husband any visitation or contact with our youngest daughter -- for good reason. I noticed (almost immediately) that the longer he was out of the picture and away from my 11-year-old, her entire psyche began improving. The little girl who once struggled with grades, homework and organization was coming around. He grades immediately shot up, her self-confidence improved by leaps and bounds, and even she was astute enough to notice the change in atmosphere in our home.

And it was never so clear to me as it was one night at dinner

As we sat down to our nightly meal, my daughter was talking to me, telling me about her day. We volleyed back and forth for a while when, suddenly, out of the blue, she proclaimed, "Mom, I like this. I like being able to sit down to dinner without fighting, without everyone at the table trying to one up each other. This is what a family is supposed to be like."

It took everything I had to choke back my tears…but I did. I smiled at her and said, "I like this too."

And we resumed our normal conversation.

Because she was right

For too long, he ruled the roost, he set the tone. Now, it was my turn. And while it was a heavy burden to bear on my shoulders all by myself at first, I felt as though I was ready. I knew that I could do this. All I had to do was one simple thing: listen more and talk less.

In fact, I sincerely believe that had I listened more and talked less in the past, I would have uncovered the damage that had been done to my girls long before I did, and I believe that I would have made necessary changes long before I made them.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda

However, as two of my girls and I have heard repeatedly in the therapy we have undergone since November, dwelling on what we could have or should have done serves no positive purpose. We did the best we could with the information we had at the time. And while the reason for my divorce was earth shattering and terrible, we are digging our way out, one day at a time; slowly breaking the cycle. But it takes work, open communication and a lot of dialogue from me and both of my girls.

Of course, I'm not saying that everything is perfect, wonderful and happy after only two months of legal separation, but it's getting there. And it's getting there a little more every day because I'm talking less and listening more. And, frankly, I think that's the way it should be.

What's your New Year's parenting resolution? And what do you think about mine?

Shauna Zamarripa is a freelance columnist, business owner and entrepreneur. When she isn't working on her businesses, you can find her hiking, biking or hanging out with friends. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook for more of her snarky, fun commentary.

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