Behavior & Development • Jan 01, 2015

Making Kid-Friendly New Year’s Resolutions

NewYearsHow do you take the concept of New Year’s Resolutions and make it kid-friendly?  Here are a few steps to get you started.  Why even bother, you ask?  New Year’s resolutions are usually lofty, unrealistic goals that tend to get forgotten by February anyway.  While this may be true for many people – it doesn’t have to be the case for your family.  With this brand new year in front of you – why not take the opportunity to start fresh with some areas that your family could improve on?  Every family could use improvements.  Tweaks that perhaps could lead your children to be more independent at completing tasks, that could help make your morning and evening routines run smoother, or that could help your children be more organized with schoolwork. 


New Year’s resolutions fail for a number of reasons – too idealistic, too grand, too vague, too costly, too time-consuming, or too unsustainable, to name a few.  Then, when you throw in “kid friendly,” you have to consider even more factors, such as a whole year is a pretty long timeframe for anyone, much less a child.  So knowing all this, I say ditch the traditional New Year’s resolution concept and revise it to be a useful starting point of change for your family. 


1.      Make a list of things your whole family and/or children could improve on

2.      Depending on your family’s size, ages of your children, etc.  – decide whether you want to make larger family goals or set goals for each child

3.      Enlist input from your children (obviously age-dependent).  Their views are important.

4.      Identify a timeframe.  Consider a month, two weeks, or even just a week. 

5.      Take your list of “things to improve” and pick one goal.  

6.      Start small and work toward more challenging goals.  Once one gets accomplished, this will motivate your child/children to take on a new challenge. 

7.      Break the goal into concrete steps that are needed to complete it. 

8.      Make a written list or use pictures to symbolize each step.

9.      Set clear expectations surrounding what each step entails and when they need to be done.

10.  Create practice runs with your child/children before putting the plan into action.

11.  Pair completion of steps or accomplishment of the goal with positive reinforcement.  This could involve earning extra screen time, a special family outing, one pick from a treasure box of small toys/treats, or even just lots of verbal praise.  For small children, consider creating a reward chart in which they get to add one sticker/stamp every time they complete one step or a series of steps. 

12.  Set realistic expectations and don’t expect change to happen overnight.  Give it a little time.  But, if the original steps are not working – revise them as needed and start again.  You may need to modify the timeframe, the amount of steps involved, or how you are reinforcing completion of tasks. 

 Every family is different, so what works for one family and child, may not work for yours.  Take what you like and leave the rest.  Add your own bullet points to make this project your own.  As parents, we of course want our children to show continuous improvements in their daily functions and skills throughout each year.  This is one reason to set goals.  But more importantly, setting kid-friendly New Year’s resolutions can be one way to teach your children about the value of identifying things they would like to accomplish and then being able to feel success when they meet their goals. 

 Happy New Year to you and your family!