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I'm a sucker for early January. I love the feeling of a clean slate, how full of possibility the new year is. My goals are usually pretty typical – go to the gym more, eat better. This year, I'm going to focus them on being a better dad. My daughter is six and my son is three. We play trucks and dolls together. We walk to and from school together. They have freakouts about things that seem meaningless to me, and I try to solve the problem. Sometimes I have freakouts. I worry too much about them but I also too often opt for what's easy over what's right – the iPad over games outside, PB&Js twice a day because vegetables make them whine. If pressed for an excuse, I'll plead time – the lack of it. In the frantic, anxious rush, expediency trumps good judgment.

What kind of father do I want to be in 2015? What do I want for my children? This is one of the few times of the year when we actually get to pause and consider these kinds of questions. My answers may not be revelatory, but I'm realizing that being a good parent is a matter of following fundamentals. (That, and always having snacks.) These are my parental resolutions for 2015.

Give kids time

I spent too much of this year getting flustered when my kids took forever to get out the door or flitted over to a toy midway through brushing their teeth. But it all suddenly made sense when I read Jennifer Senior's 2014 book on modern parenthood, All Joy and No Fun, in which she points out that kids have an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. They lack robust executive function. Now, I get it. They're not trying to make me crazy. It's just the level they are at. So this year I'm going to give them a more than reasonable amount of time to get stuff done before I start getting testy. We'll all win.

Less iPad and television

The words they say are "Dad, can I watch iPad?" but all I hear is, "Dad, would you like to not be responsible for me while I zone out?" It's so tempting. And obviously I'm not the only parent giving in. A May 2014 study found that children now spend more time with electronic media than with any other activity, not including sleep. And the less time kids spent with screens, the more they slept and the better they did in school. They were also less aggressive. There's no structure to my kids' screen time. From now on, we're going to have screen-free days and strict time limits on when they can watch it and for how long.

More running around

Pre-schoolers are supposed to get 180 minutes of physical activity every day, and kids aged 5 to 11 are supposed to get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day, according to Canadian physical activity guidelines. I've never timed them, but I guarantee my kids don't come close to those targets. And that's on me. What kind of fun dad am I? This winter, the kids are going to start skiing lessons, and I'm going to channel my son's wild energy into indoor soccer. When spring comes, we'll go for bike rides or play tag outside – whatever game gets us running around instead of loafing indoors.

Save more for school

The cost of a university degree in Canada has tripled since 1990s, and many kids who graduate do so with huge debt loads. Both my kids have registered education savings plans, but my wife and I rarely contribute the full $2,500 a year – the maximum amount for which the government will give you a 20 per cent grant. Again, we're not alone. A Bank of Montreal report released last year said that only half of Canadians have an RESP, but of those that do, only 34 per cent max out the grant potential. It's like saying no to free money. My goal is to set up regular, automatic withdrawals to contribute $2,500 for both kids annually.

Put down my phone

I'm not one of those people who literally bumps in to his kids because he's staring at his Twitter feed, but I'm caving to my phone's allure more than I know I should. A depressing study published this year in the journal Pediatrics has convinced me to put my phone away when I'm with my kids. Researchers from Boston Medical Center observed caregivers having meals with their kids and found the more absorbed parents were with smartphones, the harsher they were with their children. In other words, you're being a jerk to your kids because they're getting in the way of your smartphone time.

Go on a Griswold-level camping trip

My wife and I took the kids car camping in one of Ontario's beautiful provincial parks last summer and it was both amazing and terrible. Rain got into one tent, we were all devoured by bugs. But we also roasted marshmallows and played on a beach. This year, we might ditch the car and throw a canoe in to the mix. Why? Because it's fun and sometimes horrible, but looking back on my own childhood, it's exactly these types of trips I remember most.

Remember the Saturday countdown

There's an equation in Dr. Harley Rotbart's book No Regrets Parenting that is as devastating as it is simple: From the day they're born to their 18th birthday, you get 940 Saturdays with your kids. All of us can do the math, but how many of us have? I'm not saying every day is precious, because some of them are brutal. But it all goes by too fast. I'm going to appreciate every one of the 52 Saturdays I get with my kids this year. (And most of the Mondays, too).

Be together at meal time…

There have been several studies that call in to question all the benefits claimed of families who eat together. Maybe family meals will make my kids less likely to do drugs and help them get better grades. Then again, maybe family meals won't do anything of the sort. What I do know is that our lives are way too fractured, and all of us sitting down at the dinner table and talking about our days and making jokes makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Also, I need to teach my kids table manners, which I'm trying to do by example.

…and eat the same thing

Someone needs to write a book on parenting the Irish way. I'm often still guilty of making one dinner for the kids and another for my wife and me. It's both a hassle and expedient. Why bother trying to get them to eat Brussels sprouts when mac 'n' cheese will spare me so much grief? This baffles my Irish relatives. They make one dinner, and the kids eat what the adults eat. The parents aren't dinnertime servants taking orders. I'm taking this page from their playbook in 2015.

Teach giving

One of the best books I read this year was Leslie Jamison's essay collection, The Empathy Exams. As a parent, it made me think about the importance of teaching my kids to put themselves in other people's shoes. My goal for the year ahead is to do at least one thing each month to teach my kids the importance of charity. It could mean a trip to donate clothes or pitching in at charity drives at school. It will also mean talking to them about why such things are so important. A 2013 study by the United Nations Foundation and the Women's Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis found that talking to your kids about the importance of charity makes children more likely to give, regardless of their age, race or gender.

Stop bossing my kids around so much

Think about how many commands a kid has to respond to every day. Put your plate in the sink. Go brush your teeth. Get your shoes on. It's dinnertime, get down here now! Why do we treat children like employees we can never fire? No wonder kids today are so stressed. I'm not saying I'm going to hand over the keys to the asylum to my children. But I am going to try to be more patient and understanding. And most importantly, I'm going to try and teach them to be independent and responsible for themselves.

Cut down on sugar

Treats are everywhere at this time of year, but it's hardly as if sugar vanishes when the stockings are taken down. Sugar accounts for 21 per cent of Canadians' daily calories, according to Statistics Canada. Some of that comes from fruits and vegetables, but a high percentage comes from other products, such as juice boxes and granola bars. I want my kids to develop healthy eating habits. That means cutting down on cookies and other treats once Santa is back in the North Pole.

Reserve the right to ignore any and all of these resolutions

Parenting is hard. It's made harder by thinking it's a job you can perfect. It's going to be messy at times. Sometimes we all fall short of our own standards. Big deal. Getting down about our shortcomings only leads to more stress and screaming. The less of that there is in 2015, the better. Of course I'm going to fail over and over again. But I'm going to try and take the Samuel Beckett approach to parenting. "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."