As we approach the end of January, I have come across a number of commentaries on various media about the fact that most people will have abandoned their New Year Resolutions by the end of this month. It has struck me however that as parents we have both an opportunity and a responsibility in terms of how we message New Year resolutions to our children.
If we start the New Year with great fanfare and announce to our family that we are going to loose weight, get fit, learn a new skill, become a better cook etc and then drop the resolution at the first obstacle what have we actually taught our children?
In my view we have taught them that goals are a fun thing to make but really you don’t do anything and they really are a waste of time. I doubt that this is the message that we really want to communicate. What the children actually see is statement of a goal with no real action.
Fortunately because we have set goals for the Year and not just for January we have the opportunity to use this goal setting to show our children that who we really achieve our goals is through work and commitment over time.
So what can we do this weekend to take the goals that we set at the start of the month and turn them into highly positive learning experiences for both ourselves and our children?
Step 1: Acknowledge where we actually are
if we have started and stopped, never got started, or only made some half-baked attempts then communicate that you are not happy with what you have done to date, and explain that you need to make some changes and achieve the goal.
Step 2 Create a realistic plan that is specific in terms of actions, effort and time requirements
This is a great opportunity for our children to see that when we have goals that the next step in the process is to look at the time and effort that we need to apply in order to turn those goals into reality. We cannot reasonably expect to get fit by sitting in front of the TV each evening.
So it becomes more straightforward if we have told them that we will be going to the gym, for a walk, a run, a cycle etc that our children will have an expectation that we will not be at home. If they are small then the parent being left at home may need to do a little distracting but it will quickly become the new routine.
Older children (particularly teenagers) will challenge you if the do not see you putting in the work.
This step is the process by which we show our children by our actions that the way to achieve goals is through work, effort and commitment.
Step 3 Set out the baby steps that provide us with the opportunities to succeed.
Nothing succeeds or encourages us more than success. So if we have a big goal and we break it down into smaller achievable steps that we work towards on a daily basis then we create the opportunities to celebrate our achievements as we are going through the process and get the feedback that will encourage us to keep going.
Step 4 Communicate specifically how we need to support each other and hold each other accountable.
Encouragement matters and we all benefit from it. We all need people around us who will, pull us up, push us from behind and travel beside us to balance where our own motivation and energy is on a given day.
If we put these fundamentals in place we will increase our likelihood of success and in the process also teach our children the relationship between their work and their goals
Remember that the goal is for the year and not just New Years day and it provides us with the opportunity to be the best parent that we can be.