Setting New Year’s Resolutions with Your Child

The new year signifies fresh beginnings—a chance to wipe the slate clean and start all over again. This is a great opportunity to set resolutions with your child, helping him or her learn the importance of commitment and change. Kids who have not yet hit their teenage years are at a prime age to set resolutions, as their habits are not yet firm.

Setting New Year’s Resolutions with Your Child

Making resolutions with your children is an exciting way to encourage growth. It’s also a great method to motivate each other and foster family bonding. Here are some tips to help ensure that setting new year’s resolutions is a positive experience for your kids.

Be a Good Role Model

The foundation to teaching your kids about healthy goal-setting and commitment is to be a resolution role model. The old cliche “practice what you preach” is solid advice in this situation. Bring your own resolutions to the dialogue, and be honest with your child about your progress. They will look to you for direction on how to navigate this task. Use this opportunity to show them what dedication looks like and the positive outcomes that ensue when we break bad habits.

Narrow Down the Resolutions List

The last thing you want to do is make your child feel overwhelmed by a long list of resolutions. They will end up feeling defeated when they can’t tackle them effectively. Keep the task realistic by setting just two or three resolutions that are reasonable.

Your 4-year-old may want to acquire their orange belt in Tae Kwon Do this year. Or your 12-year-old’s goal may be to get a B+ in science class. Whatever the resolution, make sure it is age-appropriate and not too lofty. We want our children to feel encouraged enough to keep pushing through, as opposed to constantly feeling like a failure. Create a fun activity your child can write their own list, complete with drawings and colourful stickers if they wish.

Maintain a Positive Approach

Setting resolutions for the new year comes with optimism we don’t necessarily feel during the rest of the year. Try to maintain a positive approach well beyond January 1st. As the year goes on, talk about resolutions with the same celebratory tone. Convey to your child that every day is a new day, which means this is another fresh opportunity to be an even better person. And be mindful of your tone. If you’re talking about their resolutions in a preachy or punishing way, your child will be put off by the whole experience.

Make Small Steps Toward Big Resolutions

Self-discipline is a skill that takes a long time for children to master. That’s why many kids eventually give up on their resolutions. If their goal is to maintain a tidier room, then help them break up the resolution into smaller steps, also known as “turtle steps.” Here’s an example:

  • Week 1: Make the bed every morning
  • Week 2: Put my running shoes in the closet
  • Week 3: Make sure my dirty clothes are in the laundry hamper

They may actually end up doing much more than these simple tasks to keep their room clean. The end result is that they’re maintaining good habits all year round. Keep the steps very simple, so your child feels a sense of accomplishment throughout the week. Towards the end of the year, they’ll see that it wasn’t so hard after all to keep a tidy room.

Another strategy is to break down broad resolutions into specific tasks. For example:

  • I will help mom more…by setting the table
  • I will improve my French skills…by reading a book in French for 10 minutes before bed
  • I will eat healthier…by eating one vegetable at every dinner

Check In, But Don’t Nag

Follow up with your child periodically on their progress, but never nag. Kids like to feel empowered to make their own decisions, and enjoy a sense of pride knowing they made the right choices. As a parent, don’t be discouraged by lapses. Instead, you should expect them. Your child may have skipped a week of their “turtle step” because you were on a family vacation. Or they couldn’t practice the piano for three days because she caught a cold. These lapses should never be considered failures; they are just natural phases on the road to progression.

If your child wants to give up because she hasn’t made any progress, try to stay positive and make the experience fun again. Ask them what’s getting in the way, and brainstorm solutions on how to make the tasks easier. As parents, it’s hard to resist the urge to nag. A good way to avoid this is to frame your child’s resolutions on a wall as a subtle, but constant, reminder.

Make Resolutions as a Family

The best way to encourage growth and change is to work on resolutions together as a family. Nothing brings a family closer together than motivating each other to become better people. You may want to draft up one or two common resolutions you can all focus on. This will provide opportunities to take part in daily tasks and weekend activities together—all aimed at achieving a common goal. Whether the resolution is to exercise more or start up a family garden, this is the perfect way to instill responsibility and healthy habits in your children.

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