Article at a Glance
- Learning how to set and achieve goals builds self-esteem and healthy habits.
- Goals should be simple, measurable, and something your child can control.
- Make sure resolutions are something your child is personally interested in achieving.
Setting New Year’s resolutions is a great way to teach children how to set goals and see them through. For small kids, it almost doesn’t matter what the goal is, because the process of setting and meeting a goal is such a self-esteem building moment, any other benefits are a plus! Older kids also stand to benefit from goal-setting but will enjoy the added benefit of learning they have the power to create positive change in their own lives.
Tips on choosing resolutions:
- Use the S.M.A.R.T. method for setting goals by helping your kids pick goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.
- Specific goals are easier to identify and measure. Instead of “eat healthy,” a specific goal would identify one behavior to change—such as dropping sodas from your diet.
- Measurable: Be sure to track your child’s effort, rather than just success. For example, if your child wants to do better in math, it can be disheartening if his grades don’t match his effort. Instead, focus on the amount of time he puts into studying.
- Attainable: Help your child choose a realistic goal, then use our flexible printable to mark off days or record effort. This will allow your children to see their progress and help remind them to keep working towards their goal. Plus, most kids love stickers or marking off boxes on their own.
- Relevant: Sit down and talk to your children about resolutions and help them focus on some things they would like to achieve. Make sure you set goals that your children are personally interested in.
- Timely: Goals need a deadline or time block. For example, your child my want to focus on brushing his teeth every day for a month. Of course, we want our kids to brush their teeth every day forever, not just a month. But a month is often enough time to solidify a habit and gives his goal a place to end with success.
- Be a good example. Let your child see you set and work towards your own goals. Consider printing your own copy of the chart and hanging it next to his or hers.
If you’re looking for some ideas, check out this age-based set of ideas from our Pediatricians and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
- I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong each evening.
- I will brush my teeth twice a day.
- I will wash my hands after going to the bathroom without being reminded.
- I will ask dog-owners before touching or approaching their pets.
- I will remember to ask for help to cross a road and look both ways.
- I will try one new food each week.
Kids, 5 to 12 years
- I will drink reduced-fat milk and water every day, and save soda for special occasions.
- I will practice my multiplication tables 10 minutes every morning.
- I will write a letter to someone once a week to practice my writing.
- I will read aloud to my younger sibling ten minutes each day.
- I will ready twenty minutes every night before bed.
- I will apply sunscreen before I go outdoors on sunny days.
- I will get my chores done each day without being reminded.
- I will get thirty minutes of outdoor play each day before I use a screen.
- I will always wear a helmet when bicycling.
- I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car.
- I will prioritize real friends and face-to-face time by putting my phone away when I hang out with friends and family.
- I will look for opportunities each day to be kind to other kids: especially shy kids, new kids, or those who are often alone.
- I will be safe online and never give out personal information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet.
Kids, 13 to 18 years
- I will eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day, and save sodas only for special occasions.
- I will not drink calories.
- I will exercise for thirty minutes per day.
- I will limit my screen use outside school to one hour per day.
- I will find a charity or cause I support and help with it once a week.
- I will check every Friday to see if I have missing assignments and get them caught up by Monday.
- When I feel angry or stressed, I will use a constructive outlet to feel better: exercising, journaling, talking with a friend or adult.
- When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk about my choices with an adult before I turn to the Internet.
- When I notice a friend is engaging in risky behaviors, I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way to help them.
- When it comes to dating, I will treat myself and others with respect and insist on the same good behavior in return.
- I will write and practice several responses so I’m prepared if someone pressures me to try drugs or alcohol.
- I will only use Social Media to be uplifting and constructive. If I sense it is bringing my mood down, I will take a 24-hour break.
- I will call my parents if I’m in a situation that makes me uncomfortable.
- I won’t use my phone while driving.
When working with younger kids to set a resolution, remember the goal isn’t to create a big change. The most important part of this process is for them to learn a love of goal-setting and enjoy a boost to their self-confidence when they see their goal through. Remember, they can keep increasing the goal in future months, but starting with a simple goal for January will set them up for success.
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