When most people think about New Year’s resolutions, they imagine adults vowing to join the gym. But New Year’s resolutions can be for kids, too.
In fact, New Year’s is a great opportunity to teach kids how to set goals. You can help them learn new skills and deal with the outcome if they fall short of their goal.
But don’t just tell your kids to set goals on their own. Create a resolution together so you can provide guidance and support along the way.
1. Take the task seriously
You could even create a family goal.
Rather than ask about your child’s future goals in a nonchalant way, take the task seriously. Put away your digital devices and hold a meeting to discuss resolutions.
This doesn’t mean you need to treat it like a job interview and ask where they hope to be next year at this time. But you can begin talking about self-development and personal growth in a helpful manner. Use the conversation as an opportunity to talk about why goal setting is important and how good it feels to achieve goals — even though it’s tough to do.
You might decide to establish a family goal. Maybe everyone goes for a 20-minute walk each evening, or every family member shares three things they’re grateful for over dinner.
Or you could help your kids establish an individual resolution, such as practicing a musical instrument for 30 minutes three times per week. Just make it clear that as a family you can hold each other accountable, support one another’s efforts, and cheer each other on throughout the year.
2. Consider alternatives to traditional resolutions
Taking your resolutions seriously doesn’t mean you can’t get creative. Your kids will be much more likely to stick to goals that feel fun and exciting, rather than grueling and painful.
Instead of picking a goal about health or money, you might decide your family’s goal is to fill a bulletin board with things you’re grateful for every week.
You could also establish a new 30-day challenge every month. Your family challenges could range from cleaning out all the closets and drawers to learning a new skill together.
You might also create a bucket list filled with things the family can do in the next year — and then decide when you’re going to do them. It could include anything from places you want to visit to tasks you want to accomplish.
3. Help your child identify realistic and healthy goals
When you ask your child what they’d like to accomplish, you might hear anything from “I want to be the most popular kid in school” to “I want to score the most points on the basketball team.”
Listen to their ideas and help them tweak their resolutions as needed. If their goals are unhealthy, unrealistic, or unattainable, work together to establish a better resolution.
Make sure resolutions are within their control. For example, I once worked with a child who set out to get the highest science grade in the entire class. And while she studied hard and greatly improved, there was another student with a near-perfect score. She had zero control over how other students performed. A healthier goal would have been to improve her grade or to commit to studying a specific amount of hours.
If your child picks a goal that isn’t in line with your values (like being the most popular kid in the world), you might help them reframe it into something healthier — like showing kindness to someone every single day.
4. Identify small, actionable steps
Help your child turn a big resolution into small, actionable steps. “I’ll study my spelling words for 10 minutes a night, five nights a week” or “I’ll walk for 20 minutes on the treadmill after school three nights a week” are clear action steps.
Write down these action steps. Hang them up somewhere where your child can see it.
Talk about when your child will get started (sometimes January 1st doesn’t work well because it’s school vacation). Identify a clear start date and create a plan for taking action.
5. Make it a learning experience
Whether your child crushes their goals or the resolutions don’t last more than a day, make the experience a teachable moment. Talk about issues such as motivation, goal setting, time management, failure, and life’s inevitable challenges.
Whether the opportunity allows you to improve your communication skills or a failed opportunity gives you a chance to build resilience, there’s a good chance that both you and your child can learn a lot from the experience.