New Year’s Resolutions For Kids? Seriously?

A few days ago the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) parent education site Healthy Children published a list of New Year’s resolutions for kids. They ranged from “I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong” for preschoolers to “I will resist peer pressure to try drugs and alcohol” for teens. My first and lasting reaction was “Seriously? New Year’s resolutions for children?” You see, to me New Year’s resolutions have always smacked of being insecure and impetuous – certainly not traits I wish to instill in my children. While the first day of the year is a powerful time to sit back and take stock of one’s self, I would rather have my kids work on an ongoing and even basis to improve their actions. It seems making resolutions once a year sets one up for failure. Why not simply assess our path as we walk it?

Better perhaps, to explain my thinking by looking at my own past history with resolutions. As a teen and 20-something the resolutions I made were the usual ones: “I will lose 10 lbs” or “I will exercise everyday”. They to me conveyed a sense of dissatisfaction with myself or an insecurity that was only fed by the inevitable “falling off the wagon”. I mean really? Who exercises every day? Eventually I came to a comfortable place of completely swearing off New Years resolutions completely – no unrealistic goals and no inevitable failure to start the year off with. Much better! I have broken my no-resolutions-resolution a few times. Twice I resolved to stretch daily…and, you guessed it! I failed after about two weeks both times. Last year, I loudly resolved in front of my family to NOT answer anyone who was yelling to me from another room or part of the house. If they wanted to talk with me they would learn by my stubborn silence to come talk with me face-to-face. It has had mixed results. They still try to yell but I feel a sense of liberation as I ignore them!

Returning to the AAP’s list of children’s resolutions, instead of teaching our children that on one night a year we make personal goals I have a different idea. As parents let’s plan to make family dinners a priority and enjoy the discussions that bloom when we eat together. At those dinners talk about goals and actions. Work into our weekly lives self assessment and improvement. Children will learn more from looking together with us at specific daily examples (playground tussles, hallways taunts, forgotten homework) and answering our questions of “how can you do this better tomorrow?”. Taking self-improvement in small steps sets them up for success and a lifetime of being comfortable admitting their faults and failures and used to taking steps to “make it right” – every day, not just at New Year’s.

A few years ago a close friend at our yearly dinner party on New Year’s Eve announced that her resolution was to start a Facebook page! “What? Why?” We all asked with giggles around the table. She explained that she wanted to stay current, to see what all the hoopla was about and enjoy the fun. I realized her wisdom. The resolution did not show insecurity but rather strength, it was fun and humorous. It was certainly easy to stick to – we all know the addictive power of Facebook (I wonder did she resolve to spend less time on FB the next year?).

Now, having thoroughly dissed New Year’s resolutions here…It looks like I am starting a long thought-about blog. Is this perhaps my 2011 resolution made in the spirit of fun and exploration that my friend resolved to join Facebook?

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