Many people start each year by making New Year’s resolutions. As adults, we often resolve to do something on January 1, and then feel we’ve failed if we don’t follow through as the year progresses. Resolutions are a wonderful idea at any age, although, if adults have difficulty keeping them, children may find resolutions even more troublesome. How can parents introduce children to the idea of New Year’s resolutions, without pressuring them or setting them up for failure?

It’s a good idea for families to sit down together beforehand and create some guidelines so that resolutions are realistic. Parents should take the lead, setting an example for younger family members. Here are some strategies that can help everyone keep their New Year’s resolutions:

Partner with children

Make a resolution with your child, for example, “We’re only going to have dessert three days a week,” or “We’re going to spend one hour per night with no electronics.” Find a goal which benefits both parent and child, and which is easier to achieve by working together.

Help children set realistic goals

Start with broad categories like, home, school, friends, or family, and then narrow down ideas. Be sure what your children choose to do is achievable and is important to them. If your child is a C student, becoming an A student may be too big a challenge; suggest they work on getting B’s as a more achievable goal.

Discuss progress and stay positive

Families can get together every month to discuss their progress on resolutions. If goals are not being met, family members can offer their support and suggest alternate strategies. Sometimes, it’s easier for children to keep resolutions if they feel it’s a team effort. If they’re having trouble keeping resolutions, don’t be accusatory or preachy. Let your child know that every day is a clean slate and a chance to start anew.

Keep the list short and focused

One or two resolutions are enough. Have your child pick the ideas they feel are most important. Be certain that the resolutions aren’t too vague or general. “I’m going to help more around the house,” may be too broad; “I’m going to clear the table after dinner,” is specific, manageable, focused, and easier to carry out.

By learning to make and keep New Year’s resolutions at a young age, children will be more inclined to carry the tradition into adulthood, and setting thoughtful and strategic annual goals is a valuable skill that can lead to success at any age.

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