By Marcia Hall
New Year’s Eve is almost here, and with that brings the famed New Year’s resolutions. Adults everywhere are reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the next, finding places where they can improve their lives. Parents often make big plans to change habits and behaviors with this fresh start, and these plans often include their children. Here are a few New Year’s Resolutions you could work with your child to make.
Keep my belongings organized – The first thing that parents need to recognize about this resolution is that it very likely means something very different to your child. Children typically have unique ways of keeping things organized. This frequently stirs friction between child and parent because mom and dad might believe “organized” means that everything is folded, put away neatly and out of sight, while their child might consider things organized if he can find his underwear in the morning. This is a great opportunity for parents to connect with their child. Sitting down and discussing the differences between your view of organization and theirs can actually help a child if it is done though positive conversation. Giving him freedom in this area can go a long way in helping him discover what his organization style is. If there are rules in common areas, parents should be clear about those, but should also allow their child to control how he organizes his own space. This will help him learn to keep it all together.
Drink water with every meal. Most people do not drink enough water; this is true for adults and children. Telling a child she cannot have soft drinks or juices anymore will cause aggravation in the child and will only work to make her sneak them elsewhere. By setting the rule that everyone drinks water with each meal, this healthy liquid is introduced without the ban on other drinks altogether.
Practice the sport, art or activity of their choice for 30 min every day. Everyone has hobbies or skills they want to improve. Children often beg parents for lessons to learn to play piano or be in basketball, but after the first few weeks of lessons, the excitement fades when they learn they have to practice. Parents can help their children set the goal to practice by finding their own new skill to work on. This way parents and children can work in unison to improve themselves in at least one way.
I will talk to one new person every week at school. This is a great resolution for the child that has a hard time making friends and connections. It can seem like a leap of faith for a timid child to make new friends, which is why it is so important to start with just one conversation. Maybe only one in every five conversations end in some kind of friendship, but then in a little over a months’ time your child will have a new friend and be confident enough to make more.
I will try one new food a week. Children tend to eat the same foods every week. This is due in part to the fact that these foods are easy to make and because parents are tired of fighting with their children to eat new and more healthy foods. This approach addresses the problem in steps. It does not require the child eat entire meals that he hates, just one new food a week. Make the new food three or four times during the week so that he gets a chance to try just one bite a few times. Parents should try to make the experience fun and set a good example by eating the food alongside him.
I will help one person every day without being asked. Generosity is a character trait most people believe is absent in children these days. Parents can inspire the development of this habit by encouraging their children to find one person to help or to do one helpful activity each day without being asked to do it. Keep a chart of these activities and praise the big-heartedness that it brings. Try to avoid “rewarding” these activities with material positions because part of generosity is not expecting anything in return. Instead give rewards with kind words and gratitude.
Change is best done with someone else. If parents want to encourage their child to make these transformations, the best way to do so is to make the changes along with their child. Find one or two small changes that you and your child can work together to make, then connect and talk about the successes and the challenges of altering this habit every week. If you do, then by this time next year both you and your child will be healthier, happier and more connected to each other.