The new year offers a blank slate to do something different such as changing an undesired trait or doing something good. New Year’s resolutions can range from losing weight to doing better with budgeting or taking better care of our mental health. While we think about and work on our new year’s resolutions, this is also the perfect time to start teaching our kids the value of goal-setting and self-discipline. This skill can, of course, benefit them for the rest of their lives! In addition, sitting down together as a family to create resolutions can become a tradition that is done year after year, and it’s a time to connect and bond with each other.
So, where does one start? First, sit down together as a family and think about what worked over the past year and what didn’t, and then consider what you want for the following year. When including your children in this process, there are other considerations to think about as well.
Consider your child’s age
There may be different goals to work on at different ages. For example, children of preschool age may need to focus more on washing their hands or picking up their toys. Other ideas may be that they could be a better listener, be kind to other kids, or help mommy and daddy more. At this age, keep resolutions simple.
Children between the ages of 5 and 12 are more likely to understand what a resolution is and are more able to take part in the process of developing resolutions. Examples of resolutions at this age may be working on a particular subject at school, drinking more water, eating more healthy foods, exercising more, or sleeping better.
For adolescents, they are at an age where they should be taking more responsibility for their actions, which can include taking better care of one’s health and body. For example, adolescents may focus on drinking soda only at special times or eating two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables a day. In addition, adolescents can focus more on taking care of their mental health by using coping strategies to reduce stress. They might consider exercising, reading, or writing in a journal.
Begin with a Positive Approach
You may wonder how to even start the conversation on resolutions. Well, first, start by going over the positive accomplishments that your child achieved over the past year. Also, highlight some of the things your child is able to do now that they couldn’t do last year. For instance, maybe they struggled for a while with multiplication in math class, but they now do it with ease. Point out how they may have worked hard on their own in terms of learning it and then how they can apply this approach to other goals that they would like to achieve. Then, at this point, ask your child what are some things they would like to achieve this year. What do they want to improve?
When having the conversation about resolutions, suggest possibilities rather than dictating what your child’s resolutions should be. This helps your child learn how to come up with resolutions on their own. However, you can help by suggesting general categories or areas where they can change (those areas may be friendship goals, personal goals, education goals, health goals, etc.), clarifying goals, and ensuring those resolutions are age-appropriate.
When parents let children come up with their own goals, those resolutions are more meaningful and powerful to them than if they came from an outside source. Thus, children will be more motivated and inspired to achieve those goals if they were the ones to develop them.
How to Start Making Resolutions
First of all, keep the list of resolutions short, as you don’t want your children to become overwhelmed by too many goals. Thus, you may want to shoot for about 2-3 goals. Your child can write down these goals on a sheet of paper with space in between each, so they can write more specific, smaller steps that can help them reach that goal. When making resolutions or goals, introduce SMART goals. That is, are those goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound? By using SMART goals, it makes it more likely that your child will achieve their goals.
Examples of specific, measurable goals might include the following:
“I will improve my math performance by practicing math problems for 10 minutes each day before I go to bed.”
“I will eat more healthily by eating 2 servings of fruit at lunch and 2 servings of vegetables at dinner.”
“I will become more active by riding my bike for 10 minutes each day after I get home.”
Goals are more likely to be achievable when they are specific and measurable. Also, these goals are already time bound if you go over your goals at least once a year.
Develop Your Own Resolutions
As parents, develop and discuss your own resolutions along with helping your children do the same. One of the best ways to teach our children is to model the behaviors we would like to see in them. You can also include your child in your resolution. For example, if you decided you want to focus more on family rather than devices, you might ask your child to also do the same. So, you might ask your child to remind you to turn off your phone when you get home and then you remind your child to do the same.