Carrie Krawiec is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic in Troy, MI and executive director of Michigan Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. She specializes in helping families create adaptive routines and problem solve. As 2014 winds down, Carrie hears from many people seeking assistance in setting, and sticking to, New Year’s Resolutions. She offers these suggestions for parents and children.
Keep it Reasonable
Parents can start by helping children to set reasonable expectations. Keep in mind that “Happiness = reality – expectations.” There’s nothing wrong with needing to stretch to achieve a goal, but it’s not a good idea to set up for failure.
Create a Good Goal A good goal, or resolution, should be specific, positive, future-focused, and only just challenging enough. To create a good goal, determine the desired outcome, such as “Spend more time with friends”.
Create an Action Plan
Once the goal is determined, create an action plan by breaking that goal down into specific, actionable steps. Help children brainstorm ideas to reach the goal. During brainstorming, all options are accepted, and parents can use humor to guide the process and make suggestions. To help achieve the example goal, some ideas might be to a) limit screen time to 30 minutes a day, b) wake up earlier to do chores before school, or c) make plans earlier in the week.
Agree and Evaluate
Using the list of brainstorming ideas, discuss the options and cross off solutions that aren’t agreed upon. Then combine the remaining solutions and draft an agreement. Evaluate it after two weeks to see how it’s working.
Encourage and Support
Parents can be supportive by being encouraging and by creating the expectation of 70% success. If your child misses one day simply say “I know you can do it tomorrow”. Consider creating a token system to support the goal. For example, if your child meets a daily target 5 out of 7 days each week, then reward the success by going to a movie, buying a video or music download, or even better earning money toward an item related to the goal.