Editor’s note: Some names have been changed for privacy.
I have two spirited kids ages 7 and 9. Are they old enough to start making that New Year’s resolution? Happy New Year! — Mrs. B.
Mrs. B: New Year is the time for revolution! Or at least for a resolution or two! Last January, my son Leo made his very first resolution. He was tired of being labeled a â€œChatty Cathyâ€ by his first grade teacher. To his credit, Leo owned the problem and realized that only one person could fix it â€” himself! And so he opted for silence. It was a radical resolution for a 6 year old, but I think we all need to embrace a little radical in our lives, if we want to change things up and walk away from the status quo.
By May, Leo’s resolution to embrace golden silence (and keep his mouth zipped when he was supposed to) had worked. His school report was a shining example of all things excellent and he had powerful proof that even a 6 year old can use resolutions to create major life change. I only occasionally wish that Leo had thought to extend that resolution to life at home, too!
While almost 100 million Americans will make some kind of resolution this New Year, most kids won’t do so â€” but they should! Teaching our spirited kids to make resolutions and see them through offers a lesson in focus, perseverance and self-reliance. Kids will also learn about the value of goal-setting for bringing about positive change, whether goals are large (study for two hours a day) or little (like keeping quiet in class).
Christine Carter, Ph.D., author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, agrees. “Kids ages 7 to 12 are at the ideal stage to learn to make resolutions,â€ she says. â€œThey’re still young enough that their habits are not firmly entrenched, and old enough to think about what a New Year’s resolution is and to make it their own.”
To kick off a discussion about resolutions, tell your kids a story about the time you have changed your own life with a New Yearâ€™s resolution (or any goal) and let your experience inspire your kids to get goal setting. Miles agrees. “When my wife and I achieved our resolution to eat healthily, lose weight and exercise daily, it taught my kids a profound lesson in possibility thinking. It showed that ‘whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve!’ (Napoleon Hill). That’s a great lesson to learn, young!”
Once your kids are ready to write their resolutions, guide them to set goals that are specific, measurable, realistic and time-bound. Well-defined resolutions are much more likely to be achieved. If your kids are stuck for resolution ideas, have them check out the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website. The AAP has a number of great resolution recommendations for kindergarteners through teens. Dana says, “My kindergartener and I looked over the AAP list together last year. I steered her to the resolution about wearing her hated bike helmet when she cycles outside. It was a perfectly resolution for a 5 year old and Natalie was proud when she achieved it this summer.”
Once your spirited kids have decided on their resolution, have them write it down, draw it out and use a spot of visualization to ensure that they make their resolution a reality. As Wallace Wattles (The Science of Getting Rich) acknowledges, “Visualization is the main technique needed to realize goals.” That’s because the brain (and subsequently the body) cannot differentiate between a real and a visualized event. The more we visualize ourselves achieving a goal, the stronger the neural pathways that are mapped to support that outcome.
To teach your spirited kids the art of visualization, have them lie down at bedtime and imagine themselves achieving their resolution. Have them tell you what it looks like, feels like and sounds like. Encourage them to visualize that same resolution achievement every day.
My daughter Yasmin practiced visualization and affirmation to help her achieve her New Year’s resolution to become the best dancer she could and skip a level. Yasmin says, “I was 8 and had been dancing for just ten weeks when I made my resolution to skip a level. I wanted it so badly that, whenever I could, I would imagine myself on a stage wearing my ballet shoes and winning a big award. I practiced and practiced my dancing, and I kept visualizing. I finally achieved my resolution in June 2012. I was on stage at my dance recital (just like in my imagination) when my teacher announced that I had won the dancer of the term and the dancer of the year for my class. I also won a dance scholarship and was moved into a more advanced class. I was so happy. Visualizing your goals, whether you set them in January or any time, works!”
New Year’s resolutions aren’t for everyone — but they should be, kids included. That’s because resolutions can fire us up at the beginning of another year, to bring about positive, powerful and practical change. Yes, resolutions demand focus. Yes, they demand determination. Yes, they demand perseverance. But these are great traits to develop in ourselves and our kids. So light a spark in your kids’ lives this January, write some resolutions as a family and turn your children onto some goal setting that will change their lives and ensure their 2013 is a bright and brilliant one!