When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we often think of common adult goals, such as making better choices regarding finances or health, but resolutions can begin in childhood. The start of a new year can be a great time to talk about goal setting with children, which is essentially what resolutions are.
Learning how to set realistic goals at every age is an important life skill. Here are some tips for how to approach doing so, with children:
- Make goals specific. Resolutions should be attainable, realistic, and something that can be done within a certain amount of time. Instead of making generalized goals, such as “we will eat better,” set a targeted goal to include vegetables with every dinner.
- Lead by example. Be open and honest about your goals with your children, so they know it is something adults do too. If you’re excited about achieving goals it will radiate to your children.
- Celebrate milestones. If you or your child have a larger goal, celebrate making progress toward that goal, and celebrate when it is achieved. Celebrations can be simple or more complex depending on the type of goal you are working toward.
- Take time to reflect. Have children start thinking about what they can do this year that they couldn’t do last. For example, maybe last year they couldn’t read a whole book, but with skill improvement, that is now possible. Their goal may be to read a new book each month.
- Start small. This is especially important for first-time goal setters and young children. As children get older, they can create larger goals, but they’ll benefit from creating small goals that lead toward the bigger mission.
- Offer guidance. Help children create their goals, but don’t dictate what goals they must accomplish. As they get older, children can be part of the conversation to verbalize what they want to achieve. Offer suggestions, but ultimately let them decide. Having them control the decision will help them get excited and make them want to complete their goal.
- Talk about progress. If a child falls short, talk about it. What do you think you can do better next time? How do you think you can prepare differently? Share about times when you may have fallen short on a goal and talk about how you reflected and moved forward. Most importantly, acknowledge the child’s effort and how proud you are that they did their best.
- Set family goals. Family goals can include “unplugging” for certain evenings or whole days, taking time to read together or individually, going on a family walk or hike weekly, or even making a commitment to clean the kitchen together after dinner.
Resolutions and goals can be a great way to teach responsibility and follow-through. As children grow and mature, their goals and responsibilities will naturally increase. Eventually, these actions become habits and lead to their success in becoming a responsible, motivated adult.