How to Make Your Resolutions Work

Learning from the Past

Last week I encouraged people to look back to see how far you and your children have come in the past year.  And just as important I recommended that you consider how you made the progress that you did.  The first step was to encourage you by noticing that you have made some progress.  If nothing else, child development is often on your side as your child grows in cognitive ability and ability to manage feelings.  The next step was to help you notice what works in your family.

Resolutions Usually Don’t Work

Now you are ready to set some goals for the coming year, in other words, New Year’s resolutions.  New Year’s resolutions are notoriously unsuccessful.  I just did some quick research on Google and found that while 45% of Americans make resolutions, only 8% are successful in their resolutions.  Another piece of research says that 88% of people who make resolutions fail, though 52% are confident that they can achieve their goals at the start.  That is discouraging news.

What Does Work?

Yet there is good news.  Researchers have found that people are more successful in making changes when they set small, manageable goals.  They are also more successful when they share their goals with others.

Setting Small Goals in Your Family

What does this mean for your family?  What would a reasonable goal be?  Say you want your children to “listen.”  When parents say this, they mean, do as I say when I say it.  If you are reminding and reminding with no success, there is no way to wave a magic wand and get your children to comply today or this week.  You could break it down by situations.  For instance, you could work on getting your child to get up in the morning on her own.  When you get that problem solved, move on to the next—maybe getting dressed in a timely manner.  Slow, yes, but more effective.

Another way to think about setting goals is to ask yourself, “What can I do differently today?”  If you want your child to do better in math this term, you can’t wait for report cards to help him with that.  You can begin by talking to his teacher and to him.  You can find out whether he needs help with homework. And if homework is a struggle, you can work on reducing the conflict about it.

Get Everyone On Board

The good thing about family goals is that in the best of all worlds they are shared.  If you are in a two parent family, you will definitely have better success if both parents agree that the goal is important.  If you can engage your child in the goal, you will really be on your way.  Most children would agree that they would like to have fewer fights in the morning, less struggle around homework, or better grades.

Good Luck!

Good luck to you in setting your goals.  When you meet the first one, you can set the next.   And please, let me know what your goals are and how you do with them!

New Year’s Resolution Statistics.  Journal of Clinical Psychology, 12/13.12
Blame It on the Brain: The latest neuroscience research suggests spreading resolutions out over time is the best approach.  Wall Street Journal, December 26, 2009
Ra, Frank.  A Course in Happiness. 2011.
Photo credit:  John Brennan on Flickr


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Are you resolving to get your children to listen? 

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