Amslee Institute on December 17, 2019
It’s that time of year again – the calendar is changing, and we are approaching a new year. Many of us will make resolutions to improve or change things about ourselves or update our personal or professional goals. Resolutions are commonly related to our health (eat better, diet, exercise more, quit smoking), our finances (save more, spend less, work more hours) and our activities (spend more time with family, learn a new hobby). A resolution is simply a promise we make to improve ourselves in some way. But where did this tradition start?
According to history.com, “The ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4,000 years ago.” Given the history of the practice, you’d think that we would be good at making and accomplishing resolutions, but how often do we really succeed in accomplishing our goals? According to Forbes magazine, “Studies have shown that less than 25% of people actually stay committed to their resolutions after just 30 days, and only 8% accomplish them.”
Since children learn by watching and following our lead, they may express a desire to make a resolution. This shows self-awareness and should be encouraged. However, we must make sure that children have a chance to succeed. Although small failures along the way to a goal are inevitable, we need to encourage children to persevere. We should help children set age-appropriate goals and help them develop a plan for success. While adult resolutions may focus on improving relations with others, most children’s resolutions will be related to their interests. They are not likely to care about their surroundings so don’t expect a resolution to make their bed every day or clean up their toys.
To help a child develop New Year’s resolutions, begin with a discussion. Ask them what they would like to do better and what new thing(s) they would like to learn and make a list. Then have them pick 1-3 things and discuss them further. Ask the child what they think they should do to accomplish their goals.
For example, Jackson is an 8-year old who wants to improve his soccer playing. Start by discussing what skills he wants to improve, then research specific activities that he can do to improve them. To improve his ball-handling and ability to kick goals, Jackson can practice with a portable net or against a wall. He can set up a course with cones or flags to practice and improve his ball-handling. He can get with a buddy to practice his passing and receiving skills. Once Jackson’s list of activities, you can set a practice schedule. Ideally, Jackson would practice once a day at a specific time but be realistic. Look at all of Jackson’s weekly activities and make sure the projected schedule is realistic. As Jackson’s skill level increases, praise his efforts and encourage him to continue towards his goal.
Emily is a 10-year old who is very interested in writing. She has decided she wants to write a book in the new year. Emily has written short stories in the past and appears to be committed to this long-term goal. How can you help her reach her goal? In order to increase her chances of succeeding, help Emily write up a plan. The plan should include a brief story outline (including her main characters and storyline), as well as how she plans to write (computer or pen and paper) and how long she believes the story will be. A reasonable writing schedule should be determined. Then set short term goals (chapter completions) versus long-term goals (book completion).
New Year’s resolutions are a great tool for teaching children and enhancing their socio-emotional development. With proper support, they can learn that failing is ok, trying is important and achieving goals is very satisfying. Setting resolutions can help children take action and have a sense of control. Having children set goals that interest them helps the children stay motivated, increasing the chances of success. Achieving a set goal will provide a child with a sense of accomplishment that will help build their self-esteem.
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