January 1 marks the beginning of a new year and a time many of us make annual resolutions.
As Ellen Goodman once wrote in her column, “Across the country there are millions of cigarettes waiting to be stomped out, tons of fat waiting to be lost, miles to be run, lives to be organized, and selves to be improved.”
It is time to make positive changes in our lives, to view what didn’t go as planned in the previous year as missed opportunities and learn from them. It is our sincere attempt to have a happier new year.
However, before too long, our best intentions become “things to do later” and join others from previous years. Perhaps by reframing our resolutions and making them known to people who will be supportive and encouraging, we can be more successful in turning our resolutions into realities.
In an article for The Christian Science Monitor, Caryl Krueger suggested viewing resolutions as personal and family goals. She shared an anecdote about a family she knew who preferred goals to resolutions because resolutions were too intimidating, referring to formal pledges achieved only with determination and willpower. “Goals are better since they are desired objectives achieved with creativity,” Krueger wrote. “Youngsters like that idea—it frees them from being locked into an outlined plan. And what fun it is to live adventurously!”
The family held a “Looking Ahead” supper in January, during which they reminisced about the good things of the past year: a family trip, a new pet, a morning with Grandpa, feeding the birds, sledding on a slippery hill, sharing a game on a winter afternoon, the day they walked home in the rain, what was best about the holidays. Then they set their family and individual goals for the new year.
When helping children make goals, Krueger says, parents can balance easily attainable ones (hang up towels when finished bathing) with others that require more work (earn $100 toward a new bike); specific ones (practice playing the violin 15 minutes each day) with others that are more general (help keep the house tidy). Children should be encouraged to make goals for character and lifestyle improvements as well as for material “wants.”
An insight Krueger shares is that children sometimes are unaware of areas that need improvement, and if the idea is presented attractively (“We could appreciate and enjoy what you were saying if you shared your stories after swallowing your food.”), a child may accept the challenge more willingly.
Here are some suggestions for you and your family to consider:
Go for a walk after a meal (meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner) to be chosen by family members).
Turn off lights and appliances when not in use.
Turn water on only when needed; e.g., when rinsing mouth, not while teeeth are being brushed).
Start seedlings indoors in preparation for a summer garden.
Eliminate “shut up,” “stupid,” etc. from interactions with other family members.
Get to know a new family.
Plan family activities that are low in cost but high on fun for the whole family; e.g., hikes, picnics, round-robin storytelling, bike rides, board games, etc.
GOALS FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN
Learn to tie bows.
Save for a skateboard.
Practice good sportsmanship.
Help clean up after meals.
Argue less with siblings.
GOALS FOR OLDER CHILDREN
Get a driver’s license.
Learn to use the washing machine and dryer.
Try out for the school play.
Keep own room tidy.
GOALS FOR PARENTS
Read a book a month.
Express appreciation daily.
Raise level of play in sport of choice.
Learn a new skill or hobby.
Plan a special one-on-one time with each child.
When the family is ready to set their goals, Krueger’s advice is that parents begin by discussing their own aims first. Then, children may not be as reluctant talking about their own desires and ideas for self-improvement. Begin a suggestion to others with, “How do you feel about having… as a goal?” (raising your math grade from a “C” to a “B,” or earning money for camp.)
Each list should be a compilation of what family members want and what parents or a sibling can inspire a child to accomplish. Keep these lists and bring them out the first of each month to talk about them again—or even change them. Offer congratulations on progress and hints on the “how to” of achieving rather than commenting negatively about unachieved goals.
By the time the next year arrives, family members can look at their lists and feel proud knowing what goals they have accomplished, rather than guilty for not carrying through with resolutions.
Sylvia W. Lee is a staff member at Parenting Now!, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the family through parenting support and education. Explore this website; visit us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram; or call 541.484.5316. Family Info Line is also available; call 211, extension 5, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.