I don't make New Year's resolutions. First, when it comes to resolutions, I'm a pathetic cliche. I start out with determination and commitment and end, roughly a week later, in a pool of chocolate.

My problem is that making resolutions for the New Year feels like entering a perpetual state of Lent, which is sometimes doable for 40 days, but for a lifetime is the definition of hell. Or failure. Or both.

Second, I don't make resolutions because doing so strikes me as shallow and self-serving. Most resolutions tend to have at their core a benefit only for the one who is resolved. As such, these promises are easily broken, and thus, the probable cause of a spike in chip consumption only a month after the annual rise in sales of exercise apparel.

If the problem with New Year's resolutions is that they are punishing promises meant to serve only the one who is resolved, then it might follow that resolutions could be more successfully maintained and more useful to society if they were the opposite. They should be easy to do and meant to improve the lot in life of others, not just ourselves.

In fact, I think our entire nation would benefit if American parents were to make five simple New Year's resolutions. These resolutions are way easier than losing 10 pounds or drinking copious amounts of water each day or turning in library books by their due dates.

Why? Because we parents don't actually have to do them; our children do.

You may want to get some scissors so you can cut this column out and tape it to the fridge. Ready?

Resolution No. 1: Institute an allowance system and make your kids live within their means. Hard for your kids? Perhaps. But the obvious benefits to you and our nation are irrefutable. Imagine if we raise a generation of people who have learned, from an early age, that when the money is gone, it's gone. Can you say, "No more bailouts"?

Resolution No. 2: Require your kids to use proper manners. Can you imagine how pleasant your life would be if your children said things like "Please pass the gravy," "May I have my allowance?" and "Thanks for the new sneakers, mom." And think of a world in which our children have been taught to patiently wait their turns. Road rage? Forget about it.

Resolution No. 3: Take the TV out of your child's bedroom. This is an easy one for you. Your child? He'll get over it. And consider that the simple act of removing the TV will reduce the number of hours your child watches television, increase his sleep time, and even promote imaginative play and reading. It's like magic, statistically speaking.

Resolution No. 4: Make your children eat dinner at home with you most days. Cheaper for you? Absolutely. And besides, with those improved manners from Resolution No. 2, the experience will be more pleasant than ever. Plus, research shows children who eat at home with their parents get better grades, score higher on standardized tests, use better vocabulary, eat more veggies and get more sleep than kids who don't eat with mom or dad. Think of all the resolutions your child won't have to make if you impose this one.

Resolution No. 5: Have more fun. When we encourage our children to enjoy their childhoods and find ways to have fun together, we remedy a whole lot of parenting mistakes which, according to experts, we're perpetrating by the minute. Fun redeems a multitude of parenting sins.

Who ever thought the New Year could be so resolutely improved?

Copyright 2009 Marybeth Hicks

Published Wednesday, December 31, 2008 in The Washington Times
Reprinted with permission