Maybe they don’t see it but I definitely do. One by one I can select a photo from a year ago, 5 years ago or more for each child and tell them how much they have grown. Gone are the days of diaper bags and strollers. With all the kids in school, all the children, including my youngest, are at what my mom likes to call “The age of reason.” I grew up Catholic and the Age of Reason according to canon law was when children are considered capable of understanding and participating in the sacraments. In developmental psychology it is also the age by which children can carry on complex conversations with adults. It is by virtue of this level of understanding that as parents we truly propel kids to aim to achieve goals and milestone and to articulate that through a process called goal setting.
Goal Setting in Simple Terms – Learning to Tie Your Shoes
My daughter is 6 years old and loves ice skating. She loves it so much that she works very hard at it. Some of the issues we run into are that it can take a bit to get her ice skates on and it requires a lot of lacing, unlacing and tying her laces on her ice skates. Anyone that is a parent of a child where you are constantly tying laces knows that it can be a pain. Prior to winter break we set a goal that we would learn how to tie our shoe laces. I spoke to her teacher about it and the teacher was ecstatic about the possibility of having more kids learn to tie shoe laces. We used SMART goals to achieve this. SMART is an acronym for Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time based.
Simple – tying shoelaces happen to be a simple goal that a 6 year old should be able to master
Measurable – shoes will either be tied or not
Achievable – this can also be agreed upon or actionable. My daughter was eager to learn so this made beginning the goal very easy and achievable. We had action steps that we needed to take in order to accomplish this goal. She had a doll that had ice skates by which she had to tie the laces. I showed her how to do it and we practiced.
Realistic – the R can also represent reasonable, rewarding and results oriented. Being able to do this will save lots of time for all of us and will help reward my daughter with confidence.
Time – 17 days (that’s how long winter break was).
While SMART goals sound like a cliche this is an easy system for creating goals and resolutions.
The benefits of creating resolutions for kids
Whether the goal is to instill the values of confidence or to teach your kids about the rewards of hard work, being able to set goals and work towards them helps to build a kid’s confidence level. It teaches them to problem solve and to create a plan of action. This type of critical thinking is very important as they mature and have to solve problems on their own. These type of skills are an important component of social and emotional learning. Social and emotional learning creates research-based skills to cope with challenges, boost emotional intelligence, strengthen relationships, and improve behavior. Resolution setting is an important component of this and these types of programs can improve your child’s positive attitude about their environment (school and home) along with improving the averages on standardized test scores.
How parents can help kids create resolutions?
- Be a good example of rule making and commitment – Whether you are a single parent or have a partner to help with the kids it’s important that you set the example with your own behavior. Stay committed to your own resolutions and goals. Stay positive about your goals and don’t give up. If the resolution or goal comes with difficulties make adjustments as necessary and set a good example of that with your own children. Keep your resolutions attainable. If you want to lose weight be specific about your goal and share in the milestones with your kids.
- Turn little steps into lifestyle changes – I started a green smoothie cleanse and started making smoothies in the morning. Soon the kids wanted smoothies and soon they wanted green smoothies and asked for fruit in their lunches. These changes were gradual and small but soon became lifestyle habits. It didn’t happen overnight because it started very gradually. The same holds true for goals and resolutions. I asked my son to make it a habit to tidy up his room for ten minutes – that was it. Soon it became a habit of tidying up that I didn’t have to ask for that to happen anymore.
- Make goal setting an individual and family endeavor – Some resolutions can be made by your child themselves. For younger kids they may need some help from parents to explore goals. My son had a lot of cavities this year. So while our stretch goal is zero cavities our actionable steps are to brush twice a day and floss. Good dental hygiene needs to become a family habit for us all. In this way we can create a family goal based on a habit that is healthy for all of us. Being able to communicate our goals to each other can help keep us accountable and provide evaluation and loving feedback on our progress.
- Follow up and provide feedback – the only way to know if progress is being made on a goal is to follow up on that goal. Provide a way to measure your child’s progress on their goal. Provide rewards. When they achieve milestone goals offer up praise, more privileges or responsibilities. I currently use an app called the Allowance and Chores Bot to not just track when chores are complete but to help them earn points toward rewards. Rewards can be anything like staying up late, ice cream, tablet time, video games etc. It has been a wonderful success so far.
- Use a printable such as the one from ThirtyHandMadeDays which helps your children reflect on last year and plan ahead. What I love about these is that you can save them year after year and give them back to your children as a keepsake. Kids respons to progress tracking like report cards so this is kind of a scorecard for achievement. See Image in Link Below
Make Resolution Setting a Family Affair
Create family goals and rules. Come up with a few individual goals and then create family goals and resolutions. Consider creating “Kindness Goals.” Not only does this teach important character traits but it also contributes to social and emotional learning instilling confidence in children. For our family we have created a few simple family rules to live that encompass a wide variety of individual actions. They are:
- Be Respectful – no hitting, no name calling, no put downs to yourself or others. Say please, thank you, sorry and you’re welcome
- Be Honest – always tell the truth. Don’t omit details. Say what you mean. Always follow through with your word. Please communicate truthfully how you feel. Make your “Yes” and “No” a very clear and explicit yes or no. Because someone didn’t say no, that doesn’t mean it’s an automatic yes.
- Be Responsible – If you make a mess then clean it up. Think of others or consequences before you act. Ask for help. Apologize often. Accept the consequences of all actions.
- Be Thankful – Show gratitude for what you receive and any feedback given to you.
- Be Kind – Be positive. Do kind things for others. Be nice to yourself. Think about others.
In all of these family goals you can create individual goals. Other goals we want to create for the family is to start living a healthier lifestyle. We don’t consider junk food or fast food a reward unless there are healthy options. I award more points or bonus points when the kids choose healthier options. Create an effective system that includes tips, affirmations and a way to track rewards. Some people use a jar filled with tips. Others use a poster or vision board with daily affirmations or reminders. Still others use mobile apps for tracking family goals and holding each other accountable. For family health consider synching up your fitness trackers or heading to MyFitnessPal. With family goals you can create easy monthly goals. If you want to clean out all the closets in order to give to charity that would be a pre-planned family goal. Or if you want to save for a family vacation. Make sure the family also gets a family reward.
If they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then I would say the best thing is to create and track your resolutions every year. You can always clean that slate and try again.