Simple Tips For Setting—and Keeping—New Year's Resolutions

“When you set small, visible goals and people achieve them, they start to get it into their heads that they can succeed.”—Bill Parcells, Two-time Superbowl winning NFL coach

How are your resolutions going? After the first week of attempting to make changes, one out of four people quit, say change researchers at the University of Scranton. Surprised? We’re not! We know how difficult it can be to set (and keep) New Year’s resolutions. We also know how important it is to do so, and how it is worth it—trust us!

Researchers say that people who make resolutions are more likely to accomplish their goals than people who don’t make resolutions. Here’s how to keep moving forward with your resolutions—even if you’ve already hit some bumps along the way.

Tips for all parents...

• Examine your resolution. How difficult is it to achieve? If the resolution appears to be daunting, you’re less likely to achieve it. Instead, break your big, difficult resolution into smaller ones so that you can more easily move forward and see progress.

• Help your kids set resolutions and stick with them. Talk about the ups and downs of change and how resolutions can be easy to accomplish on some days and not on others.

• Model your process for keeping resolutions. Talk about your successes with your kids, how you’re getting around roadblocks, and when you slip up. Show that change can happen but that change isn’t a step-by-step, easy process.

• Post each family member’s resolutions in a prominent place in your home so that everyone can see them and support each other.

• Get helpful tips from the book Switch: How to Change Things when Change Is Hard by Chip Heath & Dan Heath. The book is filled with practical ways to make changes that last.

For parents with children ages birth to 5

• At this age, parents make resolutions for kids. It’s tempting to create a long list of changes you’d like to see in your child. If there’s a lot you want to change, make the list. Then prioritize. Which behavior do you want to help your child with first?

• Make change easy and concrete. If your toddler bites people, say: “No biting.” Have your child apologize to the person he or she bit. Then re-direct your child to get involved in another activity.

• Create a sticker chart or some other way for you and your child to see progress. Some parents create rewards if children achieve a certain number of stickers.

For parents with children ages 6–9

• Create a home environment that makes it easy for your child to keep resolutions. For example, if your child’s resolution is to do homework every day, create a homework corner and a homework time. Make the change part of your daily routine. For other tips on school success, visit http://www.parentfurther.com/parenting/school-success.

• Say something positive when you see your child keeping his or her resolutions. Kids like it when adults notice that they’re making positive changes.

• Give consistent feedback when kids are making changes. They’re more likely to change when the consequences and feedback are the same. This makes the expectations clear.

For parents with children ages 10–15

• The rollercoaster of puberty often can create big roadblocks for young teenagers who set resolutions. One moment they can “feel” like making changes. Then the next moment, they “don’t feel like it.” Be patient with their moods and show them how to make changes no matter what kind of mood they’re in.

• The more your young teenager can be surrounded by people who support the resolutions, the better. Research shows that other people greatly influence the choices you make. Read Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.

• Talk with your young teenager about how he or she would best like your support. Some young people want more affirmation for the good choices they make. Others want parents to be firm about the boundaries when they’re tempted to stray.

For parents with children ages 16–18

• Help your teenager break down his or her goals into smaller, achievable ones. Many teenagers have goals and resolutions but don’t know how to make them happen.

• Talk about how change isn’t like a switch where it’s either happening or it’s not. Change is more like a tipping point where things gradually change and then tip toward a major change. A provocative book on this subject is Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.

• Be honest with your journey of keeping resolutions. Older teenagers benefit from hearing about and seeing adults set goals and achieve them.

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