As 2009 bids the world goodnight and 2010 can be seen peeping around the corner, Americans’ thoughts turn to the symbolic fresh start the New Year brings. According to a 2007 CNN survey, 60% of adults take this yearly opportunity to turn over a new leaf by making resolutions that range from the ubiquitous “lose weight” to the excruciatingly specific “avoid the 405 on Fridays between 3:00 and 6:00pm.”
Just like adults, children benefit from making resolutions. Whether a child is mid-way through kindergarten or getting ready to tour colleges in the spring, the key to helping a child put their best foot forward in the new year is making sure their resolutions are in writing, specific, measurable, and, most important, their own.
Break Out that Pen
After being told what to eat, how to behave, and when to go to bed, the idea of having some control in their life is exciting for kids. New Year’s resolutions let children take charge of a certain aspect of their life and run with it. That’s why writing those resolutions down is so important. It makes them real—plus, seeing resolutions in print lets the child prioritize what is most important to them. It gives them control.
Encourage your child to focus on two or three main resolutions; more than that is overwhelming to a child whose daily life is already filled with responsibilities.
Be Specific and Measurable
“”Clean my room every day” and “get better grades” may seem straightforward to adults, but to a child, these resolutions are much too broad. Does “clean my room” mean even under the bed (where the monsters live)? “Get better grades” is overwhelming to a student who studies diligently but can rise no higher than a B- in Calculus.
By outlining exactly what the resolution addresses, the child knows what is expected of him or her. With a simple change of wording “clean my room every day” becomes “make my bed every day.” The resolution suddenly becomes measurable—as will the child’s grin of accomplishment when they realize they’ve made their bed every day for a week. The victory will inspire then to keep making their bed. And “get better grades”? Children generally know whether or not they are truly putting in their best effort in a particular subject. So when “get better grades” becomes “study math for 30 minutes on weekdays” children are no longer discouraged by the vague and intimidating “get better grades” resolution. They know what they need to do and they’ll earn those grades.
Let Your Child Come Up with Their Own Resolutions
The impulse to “direct” your child’s resolutions can be overwhelming. You may not see the value in “put my pencils in my red pencil box at the end of the day.” Keep in mind that your child is much more likely to keep their resolutions if they have come up with their list on their own. A little guidance from you can be helpful if your son or daughter is having trouble coming up with ideas, but ultimately, your support of their resolutions is truly most important to your child.
Remember, “practice my handball game” is just as important to them as “take a greater role in office decision making” is to you. Being a child comes with its own unique pressures and rules. Keep that in mind, and even if the resolutions they come up with don’t make sense to you, you will at least understand why they chose them.
Follow Your Child’s Example
60% of American adults make resolutions—and studies show most abandon them by Valentine’s Day. When it comes to setting resolutions you won’t break, use the same guidelines you’ve set for your child: put them in writing, be specific, make them measurable, and make sure they’re one you truly believe in. Together, you and your child can celebrate the New Year—and all you’ve accomplished—all year long.