By Meagan Ruffing
As my kids have gotten older, their questions about New Year’s resolutions have gotten more detailed. Questions like, “What is New Year’s?” “Why do you make resolutions?” “What does resolution mean?” “Can anyone make a resolution?” “What happens if you don’t follow through with it?”
If I didn’t hold myself accountable before, now I have three little faces staring back at me that will. It got me thinking. Why not include the kids on this year’s resolution making? So that’s exactly what I did.
This will look different for every family depending on how old your children are. My advice is to start small and pick one thing you think your kids can do. Setting them up for success will only increase their chances of seeing their resolution through and as a result, feeling extra good about themselves. For example, my five-year-old daughter, Hannah, has been an emotional roller coaster lately. Because this is something I have been wanting to work on anyway, and I know it’s something everyone in our household will benefit from, I suggested her New Year’s resolution be to come to me first when telling me how she feels (happy, sad, angry, annoyed, etc.) Each time she does this correctly–meaning, before she starts whining–I will give her a sticker to put on her sticker chart. When her sticker chart fills up, she can go to the store and pick out a reward.
Here are five important steps you can take as the parent when helping your child succeed at their New Year’s resolution this year:
1 Keep it simple.
They’re kids. Their resolutions will probably look different than yours and that’s okay. This isn’t supposed to be an end-all, be-all type thing. Encouraging your children to start their own New Year’s resolutions is a fun way to teach them about what it means to want to improve, better yourself, and try new things.
2 Have a sense of humor.
Your son might want his resolution to be something silly like only eating purple foods for a year. Okay, well, you and I both know that probably won’t last long, but that’s fine. If he’s really interested in doing this, it will be a great teaching experience. Think of all the foods you guys will end up learning about and you never know, this might end up being a very clever way of finally getting him to try eggplant.
3 Be a support.
One of the best things about being a kid is having a wild imagination. Let your child run with that. Be her biggest supporter. If she really wants to be a unicorn starting January 1, then do everything in your power to make that happen. She will remember the mom who tried and the mom who taped on her horn every day because that is what she believed would be an incredible way to ring in the New Year. Something like this is such a great way to get her interested in reading about unicorns and may even spark her interest in drawing her own My Little Pony.
4 Model good behavior.
As the parent, I keep my resolutions low key and something the entire family can be in on. It helps set the tone for the house, and it’s a fun way to let my husband and kids help me succeed in seeing it through. Several years ago, my resolution was to floss my teeth every morning. It was something I wanted to do, and I needed that extra incentive to make it happen. Guess what? My kids floss their teeth every night because they see me doing it, and we all have fun picking out different types of dental floss when we’re at the store together.
5 Celebrate and congratulate even if you stop.
Even if your daughter’s resolution only lasts a few days or a few hours, celebrate the fact that she was brave enough to say out loud what it was that she wanted to do. These are the years when our children need to know they are free to explore their dreams in a safe place. These are the years when kids need to know their parents are their biggest fans.
To get things rolling, jot down a few ideas with your kids about possible resolutions. Start by telling them what a New Year’s resolution means. Tell them what it really boils down to is making a commitment to do something better for yourself or for someone else. When you put it like that, it continues to set the foundation for making good choices. What parent doesn’t want that for their child? ■