We’ve all made New Years resolutions…and miserably failed at keeping them. Not achieving goals and resolutions we set for ourselves can feel frustrating and defeating. Helping your children learn how to create and achieve goals is an essential life skill. However, it is one we often struggle to teach because we struggle to accomplish this ourselves. We came up with some steps to help you (and your kids) make resolutions you can actually keep! This process looks different for everyone but hopefully these steps will be helpful in developing a process that works for you and your family.
Learning how to set goals for ourselves and plan to accomplish them is a skill that children should begin developing at a young age. Goals for children can be simple, such as learning to write their name, or more complex, such as learning to play an instrument or train for team tryouts. They should be age appropriate and should stem from their interests and ideas.
Why do we struggle so much to keep our resolutions?
When we make a new resolution or goal, we often try to make a quick change far beyond our normal daily routines and habits. Developing goals that rely on small changes you can build into your daily routine are much easier to achieve. It is not that those goals involving large, sudden changes are impossible to keep – it is just difficult to make drastic changes when our overall daily demands remain unchanged.
It’s important to teach our kids how to make obtainable goals. Success in meeting goals can help build confidence, a sense of self-sufficiency, and feelings of achievement. Additionally, learning how to continue to work toward goals when falling short helps develop problem solving and perseverance. However, it’s difficult to teach a skill we struggle with ourselves.
How do we make resolutions we can keep?
Step 1: Make your goals simple and realistic.
If you want to be more active and healthy but don’t currently exercise regularly, striving to run a marathon in 3 months probably not a realistic goal. Odds are, it would be a struggle to make time for it, become overwhelming, or result in injury. If your goal is to save more money, deciding to put 20% of your income in savings when you’ve struggled to save is a huge jump.
It’s not that you can’t save money or can’t be healthier – it’s that your parameters need to fit into your normal life. To begin making an obtainable goal, think about what is realistic for you. Your goal can be as simple as ‘I want to be more active’ or ‘I want to save more money’. It can also be more defined such as training for a 10km race or saving up for a trip. Whichever it is, avoid making lots of parameters at first. Think about what you want to achieve in the big picture, and later in the planning process, you will develop more specifics for your goal.
Step 2: Give your goal a purpose and an endpoint
What is the purpose of your goal? Why is it important to you? Is it to increase your fitness? Gain more knowledge? Challenge yourself? When you feel discouraged or things don’t go as planned, keeping this in mind helps you keep motivation and focus.
If you haven’t, develop a final achievement for your goal that shows you met it. It should be something measurable and defined. If your goal is to save more money this year, what would be the specific amount that would indicate you achieved that goal? Or your goal could be to be more active, what would that look like (going to the gym 5 days a week, being active 30 min every day, etc). If it is learning a new language, what would indicate success – having a comfortable conversation, or reading certain book in that language? Make sure the endpoint reflects your goal’s purpose.
Step 3: Give your goal a timeframe.
Give yourself a realistic ‘due by’ date for your goal. Multiply that timeframe by 1.25. You will have a slight overestimate, which is a good thing. If you overestimate too far, you may lose drive. Underestimate, and you’ll experience a sense of discouragement. This gives you enough flexibility for the wrenches that get thrown into life, and a confidence boost if you achieve your goal faster than anticipated.
Step 4: Create smaller, measurable objectives that build up to your goal.
Think about your ‘pathway’. What will it take to get there?
If your goal is “I want to start running”, consider reasonable, measurable objectives that you could achieve. A measurable objective would be something like “I will run 2 miles 3 days a week.” If you want to simply exercise more, start with an objective like “be active for 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week”. Or, if you want to save more money, start with something like “brew coffee at home 4 days this week, and put $5 (what I would have spent at the coffee shop) in my savings account instead on Friday.”
Your first objective should be something you can achieve in the next 2-4 weeks, or even sooner. You will create several of objectives to achieve your goal. Objectives can be weekly or monthly – whatever makes sense for your goal and timeframe.
Remember that the goals is to build new habits for long term change, which involves acclimation.
Step 5: Map out your Resolution Plan
Write the information from each step – your goal, ‘trajectory’ or purpose for your goal, timeframe, and objectives. We’ve included a handy sheet for you to fill out the information.
Consider what the best times and days are to accomplish your objectives. If your mornings are chaotic, you’re probably going to struggle with a 45 minute morning workout. If you work late on Thursdays, then it’s not the best day to save money with cooking dinner at home. Map out your objectives on your calendar. You and your kids can plan out your New Year Resolutions together, and fill out a calendar for the whole family. Each day when your child achieves their task for the day, you can help them check it off to see their progress.
Congratulations! You’ve developed a defined, obtainable goal with map of steps to make it happen.
So, how do you stick to your Resolutions?
Talk about it:
First, talk about your goals and objectives with your family or friends. Having a regular discussion builds motivation and helps you encourage each other.
Keep it visible:
Keep your calendar and objectives in a visible place so you have regular reminders.
Get back on track whenever needed:
At some point, you or your child will probably start to fall of the ‘resolution bandwagon’. This is part of the importance of smaller objectives. They show you that you haven’t failed, because you’ve made progress by meeting the small goals along the way. Simply go back to the last objective you reached (or a little further) and start from that point.
Revise if needed:
Have a discussion with your family about what has made reaching objectives difficult. You may need to break down objectives even further or rearrange the days you work on objectives. Having this discussion – whether about your own goals or your child’s – is extremely important for helping kids learn how to navigate the challenges of meeting their goals.
Meeting goals is often not an easy or simple process, modeling for your kids how to stick to your goals helps your kids developing perseverance, self-confidence, and skills for success. Remember: this is about making a lasting change that leads to growth and progress. It’s a series of steps, not a ‘pass’ or ‘fail’.
Happy New Year!
Other articles: New Year’s Resolutions for Kids