Resolutions are the perfect way to start the New Year. Plans for self-improvement reinvigorate the soul, strengthen our moral character and give us hope for a brighter future. Involving our children in this process makes for an even more pleasant and worthwhile experience that can be rewarding for years and years to come. In this article, we provide insight into how parents can work with their children to create New Year resolutions that are meaningful, focused, and target key areas for personal growth and development.
In making goals that focus on improvement, parents should strive to encourage behaviour where children can be proactive and simultaneously reflective in their daily routines. In doing so, parents should aim to create optimal conditions where children can act positively, wholeheartedly, and confidently. Goals for the New Year will most likely be key areas for improvement. Parents may wish to encourage their children to eat more vegetables, share more, or interact fairly with peers during playtime. We suggest that parents take a more dynamic approach to choosing goals for their children. We also recommend that parents welcome ideas and suggestions from teachers, other relatives in the family or friends, and most importantly, from the children themselves. I should say especially the children themselves. Ensure that children know what goals you have in mind as well as why these goals are important. For older children in Early Years, it might be worth having them get involved in the decision making process. Doing so will help you determine what goals are realistic and achievable for your child.
In setting resolutions, it is equally important that parents choose goals with the aim of developing the whole child. In addition to doing well academically, your child also needs to develop a cornucopia of other social and personal skills to do well in life. Thus, it is essential to give due consideration to a range of age appropriate skills that target multiple areas such as numbers, physical exercise, word recognition, table manners and knowledge about the environment.
Once goals have been set, it is important to keep track of the progress that your child is making. Note your child’s actions and reflect on how you might be able to help your child improve. For example, let’s assume one of your New Year resolutions is to help your child to be more sociable. One day, you may notice that your child is settling into school well but has difficulties playing with other children at the park. In reflecting on this observation, you may come to the conclusion that the nature of the interaction is where the difficulty lies. The park, after all, is an environment where the majority of your child’s peers are strangers. Perhaps, you decide to model the behaviour you seek and initiate or engage in an activity with willing parents and their children. When your child sees you taking the initiative, he or she may do the same. Or upon realising that your child is still nervous, you decide that it might be better to start small by organising family outings with siblings or familiar relatives to help your child learn how to better interact with others. The take away point here is that it is important to fully consider the wide range of options available to you when helping your child to achieve key goals. At all points in the process, you should note what is and isn’t effective and how you can encourage your child positively.
Creating New Year resolutions for your child is not merely a one way process. It is a shared responsibility and your child is always at the centre of this initiative. As you move forward with your initiatives, keep in mind this famous quote by philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau that
“whatever [your child] knows, he should know not because you have told him, but because he has grasped it himself. Do not teach him [a subject in particular]; let him discover it. If ever you substitute authority for reason in his mind, he will stop reasoning and become a victim of other people’s opinions” (Benson, 2001, p. 24). If we wish for our child to be more sociable, we should encourage him or her to explore the park and interact with others at his or her own pace without punishment and repercussion.
Oftentimes, it is when adults are patient yet supportive that children solve problems and direct their own learning in ways that lead to achievement. Thus, as you reflect upon the goals that you have in mind for your child, it is imperative to think about the conditions that are necessary for your child to succeed. Think about where would your child best likely achieve the goal. If you would like your child to write more, then consider creating a space at home where your child can write and have access to adequate amounts of paper, pencils and erasers. If you would like your child to be more polite, try having all members of the family model polite behaviour. Sometimes it is simply a matter of making minor changes within the immediate environment that can ultimately have a tremendous impact on a child’s learning and development. Finally, always keep in mind, that setting goals is a process that needs to be constantly revisited, re-evaluated, revised and updated. You may find that this year’s resolutions for your child may very well be next year’s as well and that is perfectly normal.
Benson, P. (2001). Autonomy in language learner. Essex: Pearson.