Fort Worth, Texas,
09:00 AM

Nobody's perfect. Even Doc Smitty.

His plan for improvement in 2015 and beyond.

New Year’s Resolutions.

I resolved to quit doing them years ago. Which means I quit systematically breaking them years ago as well.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t work to improve myself; I just try to do it every day and not just on New Year’s Day. Bad habits are easy to form and hard to break. This is no different for parenting.

Here are some things I am working on:

Be purposeful

I have chosen two character traits I want my children to have: grit and integrity. I want my kids to try hard to overcome obstacles and I want to be honest, whole people, even when no one else is watching.

The best way to accomplish this is not to sit down when they are 12 and have a sit-down conversation that magically imparts them. The best way is to take every opportunity now to teach them in a developmentally appropriate way. I don’t swoop in to rescue them when they are having trouble with a puzzle and I make a point to call out (in a loving way-at least most of the time) the little white lies that toddlers and young children often tell.

Be patient

My mind runs 1000 miles a minute. I get from point A to point B really quickly. Why can’t my toddlers do that as well? I also don’t like to waste time doing anything…walking up or down the stairs with a 2 year old is the epitome of “wasted” time. “Daddy come? Daddy scoot?”

I have to remind myself that my goal for ultimate efficiency can harm my kids. If I quickly take the task from them, I am taking away an opportunity for them to learn or try something new. If I end up getting angry with them for this, I’ve doubly harmed them. Why would they ever want to try something new?

Be present

This is my biggest one. I have never been the dad who is gone all the time. I am fortunate that I don’t love golf and my job does not require frequent travel, so I’m home a lot. But just because I am home doesn’t mean I’m present.

The draw of Twitter, sporting events on TV and JackThreads is just as strong (and perhaps more dangerous) than golf ever could be. It doesn’t take long for the kids to notice that you’re not paying attention and their efforts to garner that attention will escalate until they get it.

Find a place for your phone that is not disruptive, turn off notifications for non-essential apps, whatever it takes, just be present.

We can all be better parents in one way or another.

I plan to work on being purposeful, patient and present.

What can you do to be a better parent today?

Oh, and if you do want to find something useful to do with your phone, while you are hanging out with your kids ...


About the author

Justin Smith, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician in Lewisville View more from The Doc Smitty at his Facebook page. He attended University of Texas, Southwestern Medical School and did his pediatric training at Baylor College of Medicine. He joins Cook Children's after practicing in his hometown of Abilene for four years. He has a particular interest in development, behavior and care for children struggling with obesity. In his spare time, he enjoys playing with his 3 young children, exercising, reading and writing about parenting and pediatric health issues.

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