by Mindprint Staff
Is the New Year’s resolution just a foolhardy tradition? By most estimates, approximately 50% of us make them and less than 10% of us follow through on them. Or, in other words, half of us have reached the point of “why bother?”
You may wonder why experts in child development would recommend that children keep up this New Year’s tradition when the most essential skills needed to make and keep resolutions (planning, impulse control, and self-awareness) are still maturing. If adults with a fully-developed prefrontal cortex don’t have the executive function skills to keep a resolution, why even consider suggesting our kids try?
Because it is our responsibility as parents and educators to help our kids be the best they can be. New Year’s resolutions provide a convenient opportunity to encourage children to discover their best selves. They are at an opportune time in their lives to explore who they want to be and what they might want to do. In addition, they have little to lose and, arguably, extra time to spare. Since we know they probably lack the executive function skills to follow through on the discovery process, it’s our job to help them.
So even if you’ve abandoned your own resolutions, give it a try with your kids. Even if they don’t get beyond Step 1, at least they are in the top 50%.
Step 1: Ask and Listen Let the ideas come from them. You might be surprised by what you hear. It might not have anything to do with sports or school, but it might tell you a lot about the person your child really wants to be. As long as it’s an admirable goal, try to support it without judgment. Have a reluctant participant on your hands? Start by sharing your own resolution.
Step 2: Make it Achievable Resolutions often fail because they aren’t specific or they ultimately don’t feel achievable given all of life’s competing obligations. So turn that aspiration in Step 1 into a specific, achievable goal. If the goal is to do better in school perhaps the resolution should be to “turn that B in English into an A-.” Rather than “do more art” perhaps your child signs up for a specific class or finds a summer program.
Step 3: Check In Remember, most kids lack the planning skills needed to follow through on longer-term goals. If it’s not due tomorrow it might not get done. So agree on a follow-up plan. Since this is something your child wants, perhaps you get a little more leeway for prodding.
Wishing you and those you love a Happy, Healthy and Best New Year.
Curious? Learn more about executive functions from the Mindprint Experts.
Our blog from last week is our most popular yet. “When It’s a Can’t Not a Won’t?” Make sure not to miss out on this helpful advice.