New Year’s resolutions are all about new beginnings, a chance to change old habits or develop better ones.
Whether it’s to lose weight, become more organized, not spend as much or whatever we’ve resolved to do, by the end of January many of us haven’t met one of our goals. If that’s you, you’re not alone. Some estimates indicate more than 40 percent of Americans make New Year's resolutions, but only 8 percent accomplish their goals, according to research conducted by the University of Scranton.
Given this type of track record, should parents ask their kids to make resolutions for the new year? Or is it setting them up for failure? It all depends on how you go about it.
“I think setting goals is a great thing for kids even if they’re just simple ones like brushing their teeth every night without being reminded to do so,” says Sara Anderson, an educational diagnostician for Porter County Education Services. “I always encourage kids to set goals because it gives them direction and helps them achieve a sense of accomplishment.”
Anderson points out the importance of setting realistic goals — both for adults and kids. Resolutions, like any goal, should be specific. If a student has been struggling in school, resolving to get all A-pluses is much too broad and ultimately likely to fail. Instead, set simple, short-term and achievable goals that are age and skill appropriate.
For a struggling first-grade reader, it could be as simple as being able to read a sentence without stumbling over the words. For older students who have the skills but not the discipline, it might be starting to study for a test several days not the night before an exam. Or if a child is overweight and wants to make the goal of losing pounds a resolution, the goal should be specific rather than vague.
To make it achievable, make it small — losing 1 pound, cutting out one soft drink a day, etc.
“It doesn’t have to be a big deal,” Anderson says. “You don’t want the goal to be too much.”
When parents work with their children in setting goals, it helps create a partnership but it’s also important to keep in mind that New Year’s resolutions should be the ones your child wants to work on not what you think they should be.
“When kids set a goal, it becomes a good way for them to see the process of goal setting, including what steps they need to take to achieve it,” Anderson says. “If it doesn’t work out, then parents can work with them on how to make changes in their resolution to help them succeed. It teaches our kids to be adaptable — which is important.”
Having a goal is always important, whether they’re New Year’s resolutions or just goals we set at other times of the year. Setting goals and priorities helps keep us focused and provides a map for what we want to achieve in life. Without goals, we can feel as though we’re drifting and lack directions.
That’s why teaching our kids to establish goals and resolutions is so important, Anderson says.
Asked if she was going to make a New Year’s resolution this year, Anderson says this year hers will be to have more fun in 2018.
“I think that should be all of our resolutions for the new year,” she says.