For grown-ups, starting a new year is like restarting their computers. Everything goes back to the default mode. That’s what New Year’s resolutions really are – the reset button for our lives. But for kids, the concept of making a resolution isn’t as clear – and definitely not viewed the same way adults do.
The best time to introduce the concept of a New Year’s resolution is during a child’s elementary years, although it can be done earlier using the right approach. Regardless of age, the best course of action is to make sure the resolution is realistic and age appropriate. Try looking at it from their point of view; a seven-year-old probably won’t be making a resolution on how to deal with stress – at least, I hope not.
The younger the child, the more simplistic their resolutions should be. For a pre-kindergarten-age child, it should be no more complicated than resolving to brush their teeth every day, or being nice to others. For the elementary-age child, it could be wearing their bike helmet while riding, or not encouraging bullying situations.
For the middle school child, you can move into more grown- up subjects – eating healthier, exercising more or getting involved in the community. By high school-age, resolutions are not unlike things we might choose ourselves, such as avoiding texts while driving or looking for positive ways to deal with stress.
However, resisting negative peer pressure is one resolution that applies to almost every school-age child.
Another way of getting your child off to a good start in making New Year’s resolutions is to turn it into a family event.
Have everyone make one, parents included. It’s like having your own family support group in which everyone encourages the other toward individual goals.
No matter the resolution, we shouldn’t expect our children to keep it if we’re not serious ourselves. Set a good example for your child and make a resolution for yourself, even if it’s not part of a family event.
From personal experience, we all know how hard keeping a New Year’s resolution can be. While our hearts may be in the right place, the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” applies. Without a constant reminder of our resolutions, they’re soon forgotten. With that in mind, keep your child’s resolutions where they can be seen. That’s what refrigerator magnets are for. Then, when your child achieves that goal, celebrate!
I’m sure you’re quietly thinking, is it really good for kids to make New Year’s resolutions? Sure. It teaches them goal-setting, pure and simple, and it introduces them to the concept of making life-changing decisions. These are skills children will use in school and throughout their lives.
I failed to mention one resolution that every parent should encourage their child to make: “I will have my homework done on time.” •
That one will definitely make their teacher smile.
Keith Mitchell is the Director of Communications and Public Information at Lawton Public Schools. He is a nationally award-winning education writer. He and his wife have three sons.