It is officially the new year, which means the season of resolutions is upon us. Humans are motivated by landmarks in time, like a new year, big birthday, or life event, to set goals and make changes. This phenomenon is referred to as the fresh start effect and has been studied by many researchers.
But, are new year’s resolutions appropriate for children? If so, how can we best work with our children to set these resolutions so that they are attainable and fun? These are our best tips for successful and collaborative new year’s resolutions for kids.
Model a growth mindset
Resolutions offer an opportunity for parents to model a growth mindset, a term coined by Stanford educational researcher, Carol Dweck. Some people think that the goal of learning is to look smart, which stops them from challenging themselves because they might make a mistake. However, those who have a growth mindset believe that abilities can and should be developed, so putting in the effort and experiencing setbacks are part of the learning experience.
Therefore, when you are working on your family new year’s resolutions, model this growth mindset in front of your child. Explain that the resolution should require effort to accomplish and let them know that difficulties and mistakes are part of the road to success.
Let your child come up with their own goal
It will be tempting for parents to say, “Why don’t you choose a goal that will make you feel happier, like having a clean room or learning a new hobby?” Try to refrain! It is best if your child comes up with their own goal after hearing some nice models from you and/or your partner.
If they aren’t quite getting it, for example if they say something like, “my goal is to eat more ice cream this year” then they may not be developmentally ready for resolutions. That is ok! It just shows that they need more modeling from you. It might take years for them to understand how to do it themselves, but you should continue modeling so that they will one day get it.
Choose positive goals for yourself
You might be wondering about what resolutions you should model for your child? Ideally, you should choose resolutions that your child will understand. Maybe your goal can be to be a better communicator and use your words to share your feelings better. Or, perhaps you want to learn a new skill or develop a hobby like running, knitting, or cooking. When your resolutions are relatable to your child, the modeling will work better.
Showcase the end result
When working on your resolutions, let your child know why you are making this goal. Is your resolution to be more organized in your office? Then, explain to your child that you chose this goal because having a clean office will help you think more clearly when you are working. As your child is choosing their resolution, help them see what the desired end result will be so that they know the reason they are working towards this goal.
Be kind to your child (and yourself)
Once you have created new year’s resolutions, make sure that you give yourself and your child some grace. Do not use these resolutions as a basis for punishment. For example, if your child resolved to keep a clean room and one day you find it messy, do not say, “You broke your new year’s resolution and now you have to clean your room instead of playing with your friends.” That will just make them avoid setting goals in the future. Instead, work with them to keep their resolutions and be kind when they inevitably slip up, like we all do.
We hope this guide has helped you prepare to write new year’s resolutions for kids and your family. If you are looking for some examples of new year’s resolutions that you can use as examples when working with your children, check out our guide from last year!
If your child is resolving to try new subjects and classes, check out the hundreds of in-person and virtual activities on Sawyer. We have great options for STEM, art, music, sports, and so much more.