There’s something about New Year’s Eve that makes us want to create resolutions (that something may be alcohol), and sometimes we hit on goals that sound good even in the clear light of day. However, your kids aren’t likely to spontaneously decide to make any New Year’s Resolutions, no matter how much sparkling grape juice they drink. But, for kids over age three, making resolutions can be fun and rewarding if they’re well thought out and a system is put into place for maintaining them. Here are some tips if you decide to make New Year’s Resolutions with your kids!
- Explain that resolutions are changes we decide to make because we’re unhappy about how something is going or because we want to learn something new.
- Give some examples of resolutions that are good for kids: I will learn to tie my shoes, I will clean my room once a week, or I will help cook dinner every Tuesday. Resolutions to be more active or eat more vegetables are great but resolutions that focus on weight loss aren’t appropriate for young children.
- After you’ve discussed what resolutions are and why people make them, check in with your child on whether he wants to make some. Resolutions don’t work when they’re totally parent-driven because your child has to actually want to make the changes in order to do so consistently. If your kid exhibits behaviors that you feel need to be corrected but that he couldn’t care less about, it’s best to make those a part of your behavior management system.
- Once your child decides to make resolutions, find a fun way to keep track of them while you brainstorm. Write a list on a chalk or dry erase board. Once you’ve thrown out all possible ideas (or once you’re both sick of this activity), cross out the ones that probably won’t work or that you or your child decide you don’t like. Rank the ones that are left until you end up with a list of no more than four resolutions. If that’s too many to keep track of, having just one is perfectly fine! From Rachel Henderson Photography
- Create visual reminders around the house about your child’s resolution(s). For example, if your daughter resolves to be kinder to her sister, place small index cards in various places with words like “Kindness,” “Share,” and “Help” written on them. If your son resolves to drink three cups of water a day, place a sign near his seat at the table with a water cup pictured on it.
- Give your child gentle verbal reminders when an opportunity to practice the resolution comes about or when you notice your child doing the opposite of what she said she’d do. Again, don’t push or punish – just suggest. If needed, you can also remind your child why she chose this resolution in the first place and why it can be helpful to her or the family.
- Keep track of your kid’s progress with her goal with a chart or calendar kept in an obvious place like the refrigerator. It’s also helpful for parents and kids to talk regularly about how the resolutions are going and to identify any problems that occur.
Happy New Year!
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Kristen Berthiaume is a clinical psychologist whose other day job is as mom to three willing product testers. Find her articles on all things child-wrangling at “Parenting with a Ph.D.” over on birminghammommy.com.