29 Dec The Pros and Cons of New Year’s Resolutions for Children
New Year’s resolutions for children ages 5 to 12, when done well, can be a positive experience. However, if done poorly, they can set up a child to feel disappointed and inadequate, according to mother of three and family therapist Michele Southworth of the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia PA. Unkept New Year’s resolutions can be even more demotivating for kids, than they can be for adults. “New Year’s resolutions are hard enough for adults. Let’s not model for our children the feelings of making a promise to change that, by February 1, they’ve forgotten or failed; let’s not set up our kids to have that experience,” said Ms. Southworth.
Resolutions can Help Teach your Children about the Decision-Making Process
According to Ms. Southworth, resolutions can be looked at as laying the groundwork to help children learn about the decision-making process and, when achieved, can build confidence for many kids. They can be an opportunity to help children learn how to set realistic goals, and to spearhead a discussion on realistic thinking. Parents and children can have a very fruitful conversation – how to go about making choices for yourself, and being responsible for your own success and how having goals can be helpful in life. “Achieving a New Year’s resolution can help children develop a sense of self, and of being a capable person. It can help them learn to make a decision, to evaluate it, and then to make it happen,” Ms. Southworth said. “These are work-related skills that can have a lot of value over time, but they are most effective when there is no parental pressure, and when the goals are realistic and internally-driven,” she added.
Two Concerns to Watch for When Setting New Year’s Resolutions with Kids
Parents need to guide children in a reality-based discussion that is supportive in helping a child develop the skills to make decisions. “There needs to be a balance between setting realistic, achievable goals and perhaps pushing themselves a bit to reach them, rather than feeling parental pressure to do so,” Ms. Southworh said.
Resolutions Need to Come from the Child, not the Parents
“One thing to definitely watch for is parents suggesting or setting goals for kids, rather than the child selecting a goal for him or herself,” said Southworth. For example, if a child says, “I don’t know what I should pick as a resolution,” a parent suggesting, “Wouldn’t it be great if your New Year’s resolution was to lose some weight,” is loaded with problems. “Parents should not try and sell their own ideas of a resolution to the kids. Adults need to be very clear whose goal it is,” she added. Externally-motivated resolutions can set up destructive habit patterns of pleasing others at the expense of one’s own needs, and a feeling of failure, even though the goal was not something they really wanted. If parents wish the child would pick a resolution like, “I will get my homework done on time,” the parent should really think of making their OWN resolution instead along the lines of, “I find ways to make it easier for my child to get his/her homework done on time this year,” and let the child select something of his/her own desires.
Resolutions for Children Younger than 10
“Most kids under 10 don’t really have enough of a sense of time or managing themselves for resolutions to really work,” according to Ms. Southworth. To increase the potential for success for children under 10 pick very simple and achievable goals. Recognize that for your child to be successful, parental involvement may be required. With young children, you might think about a one-time goal, or something that can be repeated monthly, rather than a longer, broader goal. One resolution is more than enough for most children.
How to Start a Conversation about New Year’s Resolutions
Ms. Southworth suggested a conversation starter such as: with the new year coming up, some people choose to create a New Year’s resolution to help them make changes in the coming year. “Is there anything that you would like to be doing differently this year? Or something you want to learn to do, or to do more of, or less of than you’ve been doing?” The younger the child, the simpler the resolution should be.
If the child picks a wildly unreachable goal parents can talk them through the decision process, “Let’s think how complicated or not that goal is – what’s going to be involved in your doing that?” Without squashing their enthusiasm, adults can talk through the mechanics – asking, “How hard will it be to do that?” said Ms. Southworth. You can talk about how aiming very high can help them push their boundaries and achieve more than they thought, but that setting a goal too high can leave them frustrated and disappointed if they end up not achieving it.
Resolutions for an Older or more Mature for their Age Child
Another thing to discuss with older children is to ask how will the child know if they succeeded, how can they measure how well they did? Again, without adding pressure. Ms. Southworth suggested that giving incentives if they follow through on a resolution is usually not effective. Is the child doing the resolution because of an internal motivation or only for the reward? Incentives can also lead to more pressure around the resolution than is good for kids.
One of the goals of ALOHA Mind Math’s programs is to build confidence in our students. We hope this article helps you decide if New Year’s resolutions can help build your child’s confidence or not, and if so, how to go about it constructively.