The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions dates back to the ancient Romans. For thousands of years, many have made New Year’s resolutions, and for thousands of years, many have failed to keep them. In fact, recent research indicates that approximately 50 percent of Americans set yearly goals, and by the end of the first month, most make major missteps because they don’t have realistic objectives.
So, is it fair to ask our kids to do something that most adults can’t accomplish? Of course it is! Teaching kids about resolutions is an excellent way to educate about personal responsibility and self-improvement. Encouraging kids to reflect on the past and create positive goals for the future is a worthy endeavor, and the new year makes the perfect time to introduce our children to this idea.
Parents should start with a conversation. In fact, creating a tradition around yearly goal-setting is a prosperous way to engage the entire family in the resolution process. Over a special dinner or dessert, not only talk about future ideas, but also reflect on the past year’s successes and missteps. The atmosphere should be light, supportive and fun.
With the kids excited about future possibilities, encourage your children to make manageable resolutions. Being the best player on the team, for example, is much less realistic than focusing on improving a specific skill. Further support your goal-maker by helping him or her break big tasks into small, tangible measures, such as seeing a teacher for extra assistance before the next big assignment’s due.
To ensure resolutions are met, parents should frequently engage in regular family meetings where progress is acknowledged and pitfalls are discussed. It also can help to post goals on the family fridge; this creates a sense of internal obligation and makes it difficult to forget one’s aspirations.
Mom and dad also should remember that goals are about personal fulfillment and growth. Your children should set their own goals rather than craft a plan to please parents. Internal desire builds intrinsic motivation, which is the key to keeping resolutions.
Last, remember that resolutions differ from dreams, and everyone should have dreams. Goals, however, are specific, measurable, attainable and realistic. Although resolutions are timely, it takes time to successfully implement life-changing behaviors. Happy New Year!
Prior to going into private practice as a psychotherapist and learning-disabilities specialist, Russell Hyken, Ph.D., Ed.S., M.A., LPC, NCC, worked for more than 15 years as an English teacher, school counselor and school administrator. Visit him online at ed-psy.com.