As parents, it's important to practice what you preach.
In fact, it’s the golden rule in how to be a good role model for your children.
So when it comes to New Year’s Resolutions, if they continually see you set yourself goals which you don’t carry through, this is hardly going to have a positive influence on your child. Experts say that, from the age of 7 to 12, children are starting to act more independently and are able to open themselves up to achieving goals to better themselves.
So with New Year traditionally a time of new beginnings, it’s possible to set resolutions as a family.
Start by going over the good things your children accomplished last year.
Have them think of things they can do now that they couldn't do 12 months ago? Remind them how far that little bit of extra effort took them.
Then ask how they can put that level of effort into something else they might want to achieve.
Ask them: "What are some of the great things you want to do this year? What do you want to improve? What will make your life better and happier?"
Suggest – don’t dictate
You can guide and help your child clarify goals, making sure they're age-appropriate, but unless kids come up with resolutions themselves, they are unlikely to take ownership of their goals and carry them through.
Ask them what they want for themselves. You could help by coming up with three or four broad categories -- friendship goals, helping goals, school goals.
Then ask if there are things they could do better or differently. Be open to what's important to them – if they say they want to collect more Pokemon cards, don’t immediately dismiss this.
But could they also pledge to be nicer to a sibling? Or help out more with chores at home?
Have a discussion and see what they go for.
Narrow it down
Two or three resolutions are reasonable – don’t let them write a long list.
Help your child narrow down their goals and make them realistic and age-appropriate.
Too vague and they won’t know what they’re achieving. For example “I will behave better” is unmeasurable. They need to be more specific.
Realistic goals might be “I’m going to tidy my room every Saturday” or “I’m going to read for half an hour every night”.
Take a sheet of paper and write down their goals, agreeing on regular intervals to review how they are doing. And put the list up somewhere visible, where your child can be reminded every day of their aims.
Take small steps (and don’t bribe them)
It takes six weeks to create a habit, so don’t expect everything of your child all at once.
Depending on their age, help them to take baby steps towards their goal.
If your child pledges to keep a tidier room, start by getting them to put their shoes away every day, then move on to picking dirty clothes off the floor and putting them in the laundry basket…
You’ll soon learn how to influence your children positively, by giving them bite-size tasks which add up to a bigger achievement.
Don’t be tempted to bribe them with rewards. The achievement itself should be enough.
When they grow up, they won’t always be showered with gifts for making a positive difference.
Don’t nag – help them
Learning how to be a role model for kids involves setting them back on track if they lose their way.
If your child isn't making progress on a resolution, affirm how hard it is. It seemed like a great idea, but it's not easy to stick to. Be understanding.
Ask them what might be getting in the way, and help them to get motivated again.
Adjust the plan if the resolution is too hard. For example, if they find reading for half an hour every night too difficult, cut it back to 15 minutes.
Reaffirm how much better they will feel when they’ve achieved their goal, and encourage them that they can do it. Twelve months is a long time, and it will get easier.