Most of us know how difficult it is to keep a new year’s resolution. A 2013 study by the University of Scranton found that a mere 8% of people actually do reach their new year’s goal – that’s a lot of unfulfilled resolutions!
Keeping a new year’s resolution, and ultimately achieving it, takes a good dose of determination, discipline and patience. Luckily for our kids, these personal attributes can be strengthened with practice.
Making a new year’s resolution with your child is a great opportunity to teach them about setting goals and working towards achieving them. Here are some ways to help them set their goals for the new year and make sure they keep them:
- Let them set their own goal. Guide their decision and make suggestions, but ultimately let them decide which goals they would like to work towards. It will keep them more motivated to keep them and give them a greater sense of accomplishment when they reach them.
- Make sure the goal is simple. It’s tempting to aim to reach all of your goals in the new year and wind up making a huge list you’re never going to keep. Most importantly, you don’t want your child to create the habit of setting an unrealistic number of goals and not follow through with them. Keep your list simple and try not to set more than two or three goals.
- Ensure goals are age appropriate. It’s best to set different individual goals for each child, especially if there are significant age differences. Preschoolers might aim to put away their toys, wash their hands, or be nice towards their pets. Older children might aim to clean their room, eat less junk food or spend less time playing videogames.
- Avoid being too specific for some children. Avoid overwhelming your child by setting goals that are too specific, particularly for young children and children with special needs. If your child wants to improve their reading, make this their overall goal. Once you have set a goal, discuss concrete ways to make it happen. For example, read five books per week or learn a new word each day.
- Create a ritual. Show your child that new year’s resolutions are important by creating a family ritual. Sit down together in December or in the first week of January when the festivities are over and reflect on the past year together. Take turns to announce each one of your goals for the new year and above all, be supportive of each other.
- Put it in writing. Create a new year’s resolution poster for the family and have each person write down their goal for the new year. Display it someplace you will see every day, like on the fridge.
- Stay positive. Know and expect minor lapses along the way, and help your child stay positive. If they’ve missed a few days eating healthily, avoid making them feel bad and instead, focus on asking them, “What have you learned in the last few days that will help you avoid making a mistake in the future?”
- Be a good role model. Make sure your child knows what your personal goal is for the new year, and show them that you are actively working towards it. Also, encourage them to reach their own goals by sharing in them. If your child wants to spend more time outdoors, arrange outdoor activities with the whole family and show them how easy and enjoyable it can be.
- Take small steps. Break up your child’s goals into ridiculously easy steps to start turning their good intentions into habits. If they would like to help around the house more, they can start by making their bed each morning. Continue making steps over time, like setting the table for dinner, feeding the dog twice a day or completing a specific list of choirs on the weekends, until finally these tasks become habitual.
- Check in and be encouraging. Set a date every month to check in on their progress and focus on being encouraging and supportive, rather than nagging. Make sure there is a way for both you and your child to track their progress, such as creating a week-by-week chart and sitting down to look over it at the end of the month.
Have you already set a new year’s resolution with your family, or have had some success in the past? Feel free to share your tips and ideas with us in the comments section below.