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How to set New Year's resolutions with your child

By Kanjo
3 min
Last updated
February 21, 2024
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As a parent, setting New Year’s Resolutions with your child can go one of two ways.

Scenario One.

You drag your bedraggled child out of their warm bed, plop them down on a cold, hard seat and force them to think about all their mistakes over the past 12 months and how they could and should fix them through sheer discipline.

As January rolls on, you remind them of their resolutions every day, triple-checking on them as they brush their teeth, do their homework and eat their five a day.

Within a couple of weeks, they are so fed up with you that they intentionally avoid brushing their teeth, rush their homework and throw your bananas in the fridge. In short, not good.

Scenario Two.

You introduce the idea of New Year’s Resolutions by discussing what habits you personally would like to adopt and gently suggest that your child joins you in creating a similar list. You frame the resolutions as positive ambitions, not corrections of their former mistakes.

Perhaps you begin by discussing all the positive things they achieved in that past year, and how they might transfer that success to new challenges. You may not even call them resolutions – perhaps “goals” is a less scary word.

Rather than inundating them with orders and guidelines, you keep the list short and sweet, with detail given to the precise steps to achieve two or three goals instead of endlessly adding one resolution after the other.

You focus on these tiny, easy steps rather than the overall picture. As a result, your child does not lose hope and give up on their new habits, and actually enjoys the process of achieving their goals gradually. Without even noticing, they are now asking for more cabbage and broccoli than cake and biscuits!

If there are lapses, you don’t get angry. You accept them as inevitable blips and keep conversations about their resolutions light-hearted and encouraging. You don’t nag, or pester, or hover over them as they clean the dishes or take out the bins. And if they are really struggling to keep up their good habits, you are flexible enough to erase some of the more difficult steps and adjust their goals accordingly.

What happens next?

So, those are the two scenarios, with one or the other put into practice under various guises by millions of parents every year.

In those households which mirror Scenario One, the child will always be left burnout, resentful and apathetic towards their goals. As for the parents, most of them will feel like failures for not achieving their disciplinarian goals.

But if you strive to be the parent in Scenario Two, by the summer you will, in all probability, find your child to be enthusiastic, energised and excited for the challenges that lie ahead. The house will be neater, their teeth will be better, and you, of course, will be proud not only of what your child has achieved but also of your fantastic parenting skills.

So which scenario would you prefer?

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