Even elementary school children can start practicing the beneficial habit of goal setting, and the New Year is a perfect time to get started. Here are five ways you can help your children set achievable resolutions for the year ahead, and making sure that they have fun along the way:
- Lead by example. Children are very observant and constantly learning by watching what you do. Show them the power of setting a goal and achieving it with a positive attitude. Rather than talking about “losing weight,” for instance, set goals relating to healthy eating and exercise habits. Then, talk about the steps you’re taking to get there, celebrating milestones along the way. It will help keep you on track and accountable and show your kids how to follow through by breaking goals into actionable, measurable steps.
- Focus on the positive. Resolutions should not feel like a punishment or dreaded chore. Focus on what you can do, rather than what you shouldn’t. If your child wants to get better at soccer, rather than talking about what they are doing “wrong,” talk about positive actions that would improve their playing, such as practicing more or reading about the routines of players they admire.
- Prioritize goals. It’s great to have lots of areas where we want to improve, but teach children to prioritize, a skill that will serve them throughout their lives. Together, write down a list of possible resolutions and then narrow it down by discussing which are the most important, so that they end up with two to three resolutions at most, rather than a daunting list of every possible thing that catches their interest.
- Identify manageable steps. Now that you’ve narrowed the list down, ask your child questions about steps needed to achieve each goal, helping them map out a path to success. For instance, if your child wants to learn to play piano, break down the required steps, such as signing up for lessons and setting aside time to practice. With actionable steps identified, plot out a timeline, and choose a way to track progress. Making a sticker chart offers children a visual reminder of their achievements along the way.
- Follow up in a positive way. Set up a regular interval, such as weekly or monthly, to review your child’s progress. This could be accompanied by a treat (meeting over brownies, anyone?) to reinforce it as a positive experience. If something isn’t working, troubleshoot and adjust as needed. Make sure your child knows it’s ok to alter the plan as they evaluate what is and is not working.
New Year’s resolutions should not be about creating mile-long lists of impossible goals that set us up for failure. Instead, teach children to find little ways to be happier and healthier, by making gradual improvements and celebrating success along the way. With this positive approach, making resolutions together can be a great bonding experience that teaches your child goal-setting skills that can last a lifetime.