The top parenting New Year's resolutions for 2018

new year

Sick of the sound of your own voice in 2017? You weren't alone, according to a new Mumsnet survey

As Big Ben chimes and parents up and down the land roll gratefully to bed, promising to 'be a better parent next year' take comfort from the fact that if you felt your parenting skills fell short in the last year, you were at least not alone.

Where New Year's resolutions are concerned, forget clean-eating, quitting smoking or making the gym a more-than-twice-yearly outing, what Mumsnetters want to change in 2018 is to yell at their kids less regularly. In fact, 52% listed it as the habit they most wanted to ditch as parents.

This year I will absolutely not…

new years resolution

Mumsnet surveyed more than 2,000 mums and dads and asked them about their parenting habits – what they think they do well and what they’d like to change. And they shouted 'NOT NOW, CAN’T YOU SEE I’M BUSY' back at us. Just kidding. Here's what they really said…

The 10 habits that Mumsnetters most wanted to ditch were:

  1. Shouting or getting cross too regularly
  2. Cleaning up after a child instead of making them take responsibility
  3. Worrying about everything
  4. Saying 'not now' when busy
  5. Feeling guilty
  6. Worrying too much about the state of the house
  7. Relying on screen time to occupy the kids
  8. Using sweets or snacks as rewards
  9. Letting the house get into a state
  10. Giving in to pester power

Easy, eh? Now. Where did we put our parrot umbrella and capacious handbag…

Generational echoes

three generations

Equally predictably and comfortingly, Mumsnetters are also plagued by the common but disturbing phenomenon of opening your mouth in anger and hearing your mother's voice say from somewhere within you: “You treat this place like a hotel!” (9% of parents surveyed admitted to that one – let's hope they don't treat it like Keith Moon treated his hotel rooms.)

Mumsnetters agreed that they often find themselves using phrases simply because it’s what their own parents said to them. Top of the list was “Because I said so” (39%), followed by “Because I'm your mum/dad” (28%) and “Not now” (25%). Tedious responses, perhaps, but watertight; we can see how they've endured so long. Other classic 'Help I’ve Turned Into My Mother' phrases Mumsnetters fessed up to included: “If the wind changes you’ll stay like it” (8%) and “What did your last servant die of” (22%). Each perhaps less of a lawyer's answer but apparently popular nevertheless.

Interestingly, however, despite regularly finding themselves using the same stock phrases as their parents, almost half the respondents felt their own parenting habits were quite different to their parents'.

Regrets? We've had a few

screen time

We're not ones to get hung up on the past but when asked what parenting decisions they regretted having made, almost a third (31%) said they should have been more strict about screen time than they were. Interestingly, only 1% named limiting screen time as a parenting habit they hoped their children would pick up when they themselves become parents. Perhaps that particular horse has bolted already or perhaps technology is advancing so fast it doesn't seem like a battle worth continuing to have. On the subject of which, 56% felt picking your battles was an effective parenting habit to keep and 12% hoped to pass this one on to their own children.

Across the board, the thing most parents found hard about parenting (other than the children) was consistency. Setting clear rules and sticking to them is hard work according to 84% of respondents and 58% said it was difficult to be completely consistent in their approach to bringing up children.

Practically perfect in every way

family time

But it's not all gloom and self-castigation. The survey showed that a healthy wish to chuck out the guilt and worry and simply enjoy time spent as a family seemed to be the key drivers for change as far as Mumsnetters are concerned – 38% wanted to worry less and 37% wished they could not feel guilty. Three cheers to that.

Mumsnet's CEO Justine Roberts agrees: “Parenting is most definitely an art, not a science – which is just as well, given how many conflicting messages parents receive. Although New Year is a time for reflection and attempting to ditch bad habits, our users who've been around the track a few times all agree that there's no one right way of doing things, and the one thing not worth spending time on is feeling guilty.”

Asked about which parenting habits they rated as being effective, and which they practised, habits that involved quality time spent together were clear winners. Cooking with your child scored highly with 64% of parents saying they rated it as an effective parenting habit, and 60% felt setting aside time just to spend with your child was important, too. But it was reading together that came out head and shoulders above the rest with 67% feeling it was an effective parenting habit to get into and, more importantly, 85% reporting that they regularly read with their child, showing that the best parenting intentions are often put into practice.

Other good habits Mumsnetters practise regularly include eating together as a family (80%), 'catching them being good' in order to give praise (79%) and encouraging them to try new foods (70%) – we always knew Mumsnetters' children were a cultured and fine-palated bunch.

A very encouraging 92% felt that the way they parent has worked for their family, and that has to be the main thing. Mary Poppins you may not be, but we think you’re all doing a pretty darned good job anyway. And if all your resolutions about speaking in your 'indoor voice' and instilling a sense of calm, gentle discipline in your children go by the wayside before the Christmas wrapping hits the recycling bin, well – there's always 2019.