Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How can I encourage my children to make New Year’s resolutions with me?

Making New Year’s resolutions may or may not be a tradition for you, but even if it is not it can be a great way to teach your children about working to improve a part of their lives.  

It does not have to be at the turn of the New Year but most of us want our children to grow to be adults that recognize their shortcomings and work to improve themselves.  Children will always model the attitudes and actions of the adults closest to them so it’s a good opportunity for us adults to work to better ourselves too.  

1.        Talk to your children in a positive way about one of the ways YOU would like to improve YOURSELF.  This means that if your goal is to lose a little weight, avoid making comments about how fat or ugly you feel.  These phrases and terms can really get stuck in your children’s heads for a long time.   Focus instead on wanting to have more energy and be well balanced.  

2.       Ask your children if there are any habits in their own lives that they would like to work to improve.  Be very careful her NEVER to lead your children to what YOU think they should do.  Chances are you have talked to them in the past about actions they need to work on or behaviors that are not appropriate or healthy.  Your children will already remember that and you don’t need to repeat yourself.  Work instead to let your children contemplate the question.  It may take them a few days to understand and come up with something they want to work on.    

3.       When your children come up with an idea, support it and invite them to explain it more thoroughly.  Ask your children why this action and why now. Talk about how they will feel when this habit is created (or eliminated).  Express to your children how proud you are that they have decided to take these big steps and let them know you will be there through the process.  Ask your children to partner with you and hold each other accountable.  

4.      Work together on the steps.  Sometimes a life change can be just too big to start or stop right away.  For example if your daughter wanted to find more friends at school there may be steps involved in that.  The first would be to think about who is friendly.  Then next would be to involve the new friend in a few activities at school.  The next might be to invite the other child to eat lunch with her.  Next you could invite the child to the house to play.  

Another example might be that your son wants to get better at baseball.  The first step might be to practice catching for 15 min every day, and then he might add 15 min of hitting every day.  Working to get a coach or tutor might be a step that is taken, and you might want your child to earn extra money or do extra chores to pay for it.

5.       As your children begin to work through these steps there are bound to be disappointments and horrible days.  That is expected when changing a habit.  That is why working as partners with them is such a great idea.  Your children can nudge and encourage you in your new habit forming/breaking endeavor and you can do the same for them.  This is a very big step. As a parent it is our first instinct to come and fix the problem or tell them how to fix it and what to do.  However, it is very important to let your children lead this process.  You can encourage them with comments like “I saw that it was very difficult for you to choose to work on hitting the baseball today, but you kept at it and did it even though all your friends were outside playing Frisbee.  I am proud and I see that you are working very hard.”  Or “I know that you were very disappointed when your new friend Emma did not want to sit with you at lunch.  It is very hard when you ask such an important question and someone says no." 

Working with your children to improve part of your life can be a great connecting experience.  And the benefit works for you, your children and the relationship you have together. 

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