Setting and sticking to New Year's resolutions are great ways for your child to learn about goals. Achieving a resolution also boosts your child's self-esteem and confidence. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), even preschoolers can set New Year's resolutions. So, as you're thinking about your own New Year's resolutions this week, why not help your child set one or two of his own? Here's how:
- Have your child identify potential resolutions. Ask your child about what he would like to achieve in the coming year. It's important to let your child decide so he feels ownership of the resolution. Remember to stay positive -- it can be just as much of achivement to enhance a skill or continue a good behavior (for instance, "I will keep brushing my teeth every day without being reminded") as it is to correct a negative behavior.
- Set realistic goals. Pick one or two resolutions to focus on from your child's list. Prioritizing just a couple of resolutions will make it more likely that she'll stick to them. If necessary, turn the resolution into a defined, realistic goal (e.g., "I will share my toys with my brother and speak nicely to him" instead of "Be a better big sister").
- Break it down. A resolution can be daunting if your child thinks of only the end result, or about having to do something for an entire year. He might also lose interest after a few months. Set some milestones, or mini-goals, to break the year into manageable chunks. For example, if your child's resolution is to make his bed every morning, a milestone could be making the bed every morning for three months. When your child makes it to a milestone, praise him and give a small, age-appropriate reward -- it could be as simple as spending some quality time with you. The younger your child is, the more mini-goals you should set. What seems like a reasonable amount of time for an adult could seem twice as long to a preschooler.
- Track progress. Track your child's progress to help her see (and take pride in) how far she's come toward reaching her goals. You can make a tracking chart together, or download and print one of the many charts available online (see "For more information" below for links to sites with progress charts). For an older child, an online tracking chart may be the way to go.
As the year progresses, be sure to remind your child that a New Year's resolution is not about perfection. Setbacks are bound to happen. Your child might forget to make his bed, brush his teeth or be nice to a sibling, but these "mistakes" don't make a resolution a lost cause. The important thing is to get back on track and continue working toward the goal after a setback -- a skill that will serve your child well for many, many years to come.
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