It’s the time of year when much ado is made of resolutions, and your son or daughter might be excited to make a one now. But sticking with resolutions can be difficult for many young people. Where do they start? How do they set a measurable, realistic goal? Can they stick with it? Resolutions require time and pointed resolve to take hold, and it will be up to you, the parent, to guide the goal setting and encourage daily effort.
Here are three common resolutions and some suggestions for how to help your child see them through to fruition.
1. Be a Better Student – Sit down with your child and analyze his class schedule. Let him discuss with you his own measurable goals and desire for raising grades. Let him own this; you are the coach and cheerleader. Dedicated reading time can facilitate improved learning; make this a family event. Raising a grade level may be as simple as spending a bit of extra time each day on a tough subject. Set a goal of 30 extra minutes a day and bump that up if need be. In my own house, we had to make it 60 additional minutes based on my preteen’s workload. It worked. He raised his grades to “All-A’s” in a single progress period.
Consider what drives your child and use this as motivation. Encouragement and your time spent helping is absolutely critical. Sitting at the table doing your own work (reading a book, paying bills or writing letters) alongside him can be a great motivator for your child. Don’t underestimate the value of being present for your child physically, mentally and emotionally.
2. Become a Better Citizen – Some kids really enjoy working for a cause and want to set their sights on affecting positive change in the world. Fostering this Good Samaritan mentality can result in a lasting feeling of pride.
Look for opportunities to volunteer time and services in your community, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Plug into stewardship programs through a religious organization; Mobile Loaves and Fishes is a good example. My brother and his son make the rounds once a month, and they cherish that time together. Organize a neighborhood food or clothing drive for charity. Discuss the many opportunities with your child and allow him to come up with a list of possibilities. Let the child drive the agenda, but let your commitment and support sustain it.
3. Get Healthy – Sometimes, the most common-sense aspects of a healthy lifestyle can be overlooked. Does your child drink enough water? Talk to your pediatrician about the appropriate amount for his age. Discuss the use of screen time with your child and ask if he would like the family to be more active. A 20-minute family walk right after dinner can help everyone’s health and build a family connection. My eight year old’s school gave each child a jump rope. Now, he jumps every morning and tries to beat his personal best number of jumps without stopping. Not only is it fun for him, but he is exercising.
Encourage your child to take ownership of his resolutions. This should be your child’s creation, but you have some input, as well. You are not trying to fix your child, but to encourage him to grow. Discuss his goals in terms of his buy-in and excitement, not your own dictation of what he should do. Guide and support him to write these goals down, maybe even formulating a contract that you both sign and promise to follow.
Any resolution requires committed resolve. A child’s resolution requires a parent’s time, consistent effort, gentle guidance and dedicated leadership.
Lance Haverda lives in Austin and is a passionate advocate for children, adolescents and young adults.