Making a New Year’s Resolution dates back to the ancient Babylonians who used to make promises to their Gods at the beginning of the new year. Today, this long-standing tradition takes on a slightly different form, though the premise is the same. Rather than making promises to gods about returning borrowed items or paying debts, we tend to make promises to ourselves — or the people around us — about some form of self-improvement we wish to accomplish. Or sometimes it’s a business goal (or both: as those of us who are small business owners can attest, you can’t always separate your business from yourself).
And getting your children in on the fun is the perfect way to help them learn self-reflection, discipline, and goal-setting. Here are five ways you can help kids make New Year’s resolutions and keep them.
1. Do it Yourself.
One of the best ways to help kids make New Year’s Resolutions is to let them see you make your own and try to reach them. This is especially effective if you maintain a positive attitude toward your resolution. Children learn best through imitation. So get them involved in your resolutions and keep them there. Make a formal announcement about your resolution, create a chart to track your progress; or better yet, let them help you choose your resolution and chart your progress with you. Not only will your children make the perfect accountability partners for you, but they’ll learn the fun side of these resolutions.
2. Let kids choose their own resolutions, but narrow down their list.
Kids are great at picking out goals, but they aren’t always all that good at picking out meaningful goals or challenging goals. And they don’t always know how to create goals that can be achieved. Many times, kids will choose resolutions they think you want to hear, and then have no idea how to turn them into real goals. For example, they may choose to keep their room neater or help around the house more; but then after a few days, without a real goal attached to those resolutions, they will fall back into old habits. To help, have your children choose two or three major resolutions and then help them break it down into smaller goals: “I will keep my room neater by folding my clothes and putting away my toys.” Or “I will help more about the house by doing dishes and vacuuming the front room once a week.” Never underestimate the baby steps. They will make these resolutions concrete for your children as well as give them an action plan for how to achieve them.
3. Put together a plan for followup.
Just as children will have fun charting the progress you’ve made on your resolution, they’ll have fun charting progress on their own resolutions as well. And while you’re creating the chart, set expectations for how and when you’ll be following up with them. Will you be asking them once a week to check their progress? Will you ask them to check in with you every few days. Whatever plan you come up with for follow up, set the expectations now so they won’t be surprised when you try to follow up with them later.
4. Don’t let your followup turn into nagging.
Kids are going to forget that they set these goals. And they are going to forget that they asked you for help to achieve these goals. Forgetting for a day or two or even a week isn’t failing, and your children should know that. If they seem to have gone more than a couple of weeks without making any progress toward their goals, check in with them and instead of focusing on what they haven’t done try to get them excited to start over again. You’ll have a chance to acknowledge how hard it is to stick with something new, and your kids will learn that it’s okay to start over sometimes.
5. Celebrate every step toward achieving those goals.
Remember when I said, “Never underestimate the baby steps.” This goes for celebrations as well. Every goal, no matter how small, requires self-discipline and action to achieve. Therefore, it only makes sense to pause and celebrate when you achieve one. Perhaps a special meal, a special trip, or even a night they get to stay up a little later than normal can make a world of difference. You’ll find that kids can stick with their goals much more consistently when they can see the physical rewards for them along the way, rather than the one major reward at the end.
All in all, when you help kids make New Year’s resolutions, you help them build a sense of responsibility, pride, and goal-setting skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.