Making New Years Resolutions with Kids

Every New Years I resolve to be perfect. It must not be a very good resolution because I usually fail pretty quickly. Some years it only takes a few minutes. Obviously, making your goals attainable is a big step in the right direction for both children and adults. Learning to set effective goals is an important skill for children to use, not only when they are young but throughout their entire lives. Here are some tips for writing goals and resolutions with kids.

As parents and teachers, we have many goals for our kids. However, in order to be successful, the resolution must belong to the child, not the parent or the teacher. A resolution that is generated by the adult and unwanted by the child is not a resolution at all, it is just another teacher or parent command. Suggestions are fine, of course, but there is much more empowerment when the child comes up with the resolution him or herself and when he or she is fully invested in the process and the outcome.

Whatever the resolution, unlike my goal to be perfect, it should be attainable. The flip side of attainability is challenge. The goal must not be too easy or there is not much point. Try for a goal that is both challenging and attainable.

Be Specific
Another problem with my resolution to be perfect is that it is a bit unclear as to exactly it means to be perfect. Help your child to refine his or her resolution into a specific goal. Here are some examples:
  • Instead of: I will be more polite, try I will remember to say "please" and "thank you."
  • Instead of: I will keep my room neat, try I will make my bed and pick up my clothes and toys each day. 
  • Instead of: I will get better at playing the piano, try I will practice for one hour each day.
Make a Plan
Brainstorm some ideas for success. For example, if the goal is to pick up clothes and toys each evening, perhaps a reminder sign on the door is in order, or a chart for marking the tasks off each evening. If the resolution is a big one, you may want to make a list of steps to follow. 

Celebrate Success
Be sure there are markers for success. Some resolutions are easy to measure. For example, if your daughter has resolved to stop biting her nails, longer, unbitten nails are proof of success. You might consider a new bottle of nail polish or a manicure to celebrate. If the goal is more long term or ongoing, such as practicing piano, it is likely the hard work will pay off without you doing anything, for example, the piano teacher may comment on improvement or offer a larger part in the recital. However, a little extra encouragement is always a good thing! Perhaps going out for ice cream after a piano lesson would be a nice way to celebrate.

Here is a free goal-setting worksheet I have used with my students. It includes space for students to make three types of goals: academic, behavioral/ social, and personal. Feel free to download it and use it with your kids!


Fisher Reyna Education said...

Thanks Rachel. Well said!

Runde's Room said...

Thanks for some GREAT ideas - I think it's so important to teach our students (and our own kids) how to make the goals attainable, and that it takes WORK to attain them. I LOVE the "I Will" visual - think I'll borrow it when I post my students resolutions.

Runde's Room

Rachel Lynette said...

Thanks so much, Rachel and Jen! I really appreciate it, and of course you are welcome to the graphic!

Lisa said...

Excellent post. BE SPECIFIC is awesome advice. My family is about to make our goals at dinner tonight. Perfect timing for me to read this. Thanks!

skatergal said...

excellent! it gives more insight to life.

showie said...

I definitely liked reading everything that is posted on your website. I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!

lee woo said...

Love it! Very interesting topics, I hope the incoming comments and suggestion are equally positive. Thank you for sharing this information that is actually helpful.

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