The New Year means new beginnings for many and an opportunity to start again, set some goals and make some changes. These very often take the form of New Year’s resolutions for adults. But what about children? Is it a good idea or even healthy for children to have a set of New Year’s resolutions?
I must admit, personally I change my mind from year to year with regards to resolutions. In some ways I think they can set you up for inevitable failure, in other ways I think it is good to have something to aim for. I guess as long as you don’t beat yourself up about it if you don’t reach your goals than they can be helpful guidelines.
Anyway, I came across an interesting American article about New Year’s resolutions for children. It quotes American pediatric psychologist, Stacy Flowers. She says, “The New Year is a fresh start and it’s a great time for families to take a look at the past year and see where they can make improvement. For children and teens, making resolutions helps with self-discipline, goal setting and, when they are successful, improves self-esteem.”
I was skeptical at first but as I read on I felt Flowers had some interesting and helpful points. According to Flowers, parents can play an important role in helping their children decide on goals and successfully meet those goals in the coming year: “The first step is knowing your children. What areas can they work on? Where can they improve? Where will they see the biggest benefit?”
The key, according to Flowers, is to come up with manageable accomplishments that are personally meaningful to your child. These accomplishments will vary greatly with age.
However it’s all very well setting goals but how on earth do you get children to keep them? Flowers suggests,
“Young children might benefit from charts and stickers to document their progress and accomplishments. Older children and teens can utilise calendars or electronic documentation of their achievements. Parents can also use age-appropriate rewards to recognise their children’s successes. No matter how old you are, it feels so good to get something crossed off your list, and the absolutely best way to change behavior is to reward it instead of punish it.”
We, as parents, don’t get let off the hook in the article either. Flowers says if children are making resolutions, their parents should be as well. She says, “Those goals should be shared with the children so they are aware of what their parents are hoping to achieve. That actually makes it fun for the children. They get really excited when they can point out something their parent isn’t doing right.”
Flowers concludes that, “Everybody has something they need to work on, so resolutions can become a family tradition.”
After reading the article I felt that if nothing else it would give me a chance to approach and tackle some of the ‘difficult’ behaviour my son has made a habit of over the last year and I can set some goals that I know he’ll relish keeping me accountable to. It could actually be fun! What do you think?