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Kicking off New Year’s on the right note: make resolutions, but with kids!

January 1 - The year kicks off with the start of a new year’s resolution: I’ll lose/gain weight, I’ll read more books, I’ll work more/less, I’ll prioritize finance/romance. History says that’s typically followed by a massive resignation as people fudge up once or twice and then give up on their goals entirely. Despite our personal (and embarrassing) failures at keeping resolutions as an adult, we can definitely do better as parents. Making New Year’s resolutions along with your children is a great way to teach them how to set goals (and maybe, they could teach you how to actually keep a resolution in return). It helps kids have a clear vision of the changes they want, helps them feel more in-control of their actions, organizes their thoughts and teaches them to break tasks down to achieve big goals.

However, a mistake often made is that we tend to influence our child’s resolutions with what we wish them to achieve. They will do it religiously only if they really want to, not if you want them to. Let the child think for itself. That way, they are more likely to keep their resolutions too. Besides, if they are not ready to take on a resolution on their own, you could make it a family resolution to instill confidence in them!

Here are four things to keep in mind while you help the tots out with their New Year resolutions:

A) Narrow down the resolution list: The most important thing is to not have too many resolutions. Start by going over the positive things your kids accomplished last year. Then zero down on just a couple of things that need improvement. Do not suggest corrections as this may crush their spirit even before they’ve begun the quest! These few goals should be concrete, specific and manageable.

B) Help and then get out of the way: Your only work really is to help your kids figure out their goals; give them direction and then just let them figure it out themselves. You’re there to make sure they don’t make unreasonable or harmful resolutions. How they go about keeping their resolutions should be entirely their responsibility. The more responsibility you delegate to them in terms of making these decisions for themselves, the more they will understand the importance of sticking to a routine and being disciplined with their goals.

C) Break it down, take turtle steps: Turning a good intention into a habit is one of the greatest things you can teach your child. But forming habits takes time. It takes about six weeks to fully form a habit that you’re unlikely to abandon. To help kids actually be able to achieve the big goals they have set for themselves, taking baby steps at a time is necessary. You could help them set daily, weekly and monthly goals. If you think your child is going to be a changed version of themselves in one big leap, take a look back at your own achievements and you’ll realise how that’s impossible.

D) Follow up but don’t nag: Check in periodically with kids to see how they are doing. Don’t worry about lapses, rather expect them. Taking a day or two off, or not being able to meet goals in a certain week or even going on a long vacation does not mean they have failed their goals. That’s not failure, that’s trying! And from our own personal history of failing resolutions, it’s fair we don’t burden them with the thought of failing. If your child is failing to keep a resolution, first affirm how hard it is and then try helping them with whatever is getting in their way. Remember to not make it another school assignment.

Even though the rage of changing our habits, lifestyles and circumstances magically as the clock strikes 12 can be compelling, let’s remember how it really is about happiness. There's a celebratory feeling to setting goals on New Year's, especially for children, that doesn't exist at other times of the year. While making resolutions with kids, it’s important to first resolve to be happy and enjoy whatever we do.

On that note, a very happy new year to our dedicated readers. Toodles and have fun!

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