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Creating Successful New Year's Resolutions

Let’s talk for a minute about New Year's resolutions.

I’m sure that we have all had past experiences with setting intentions and goals for the upcoming year offering a clean slate! Only then to get one month into the new year and find yourself failing miserably and abandoning the whole thing until the next week, month, or year.

Failed experiences are punishing. From a behavioral perspective, punishment means that we are less likely to engage in those behaviors that precede it. So, if setting goals ends in failure, then as the years have progressed, we may find ourselves less and less likely to even set resolutions.

But did you know that there is actually science behind goal setting? And when done the right way, goal-setting can be completely successful in helping to change your own behavior.

The Science Behind Successful Goal-Setting

We think that the New Year is a wonderful time to celebrate with our children the closure of a successful year and the beginning of something new. We should incorporate our children into goal-setting for the upcoming year and start the practice young. Begin with setting easy, achievable goals with your children (keyword being with, not for). Let them help come up with their own goals for themselves.

To follow are the science-based steps behind successful goal-setting to achieve improvements in behavior:

  1. Establish goals that are achievable or slightly above current performance levels. If your child is only turning his homework in three times per week, encourage him to set his initial goal at 4 times per week.
  2. Make sure that your goals are measurable. Rather than your child saying, “I’d like to do better on homework,” encourage him to be specific. “I’d like to turn in my homework 4 out of 5 days each week.”
  3. Set a deadline to achieve the goal rather than leaving it open-ended. For example, “I’d like to turn in my homework 4 out of 5 days until Winter Break.”

Every parent wants their child to be intrinsically motivated to do well, and we want that also! However, if intrinsic motivation does not yet exist, then we need to take some steps to try and establish that.

Establishing Intrinsic Motivation

Creating Successful New Year's Resolutions by Parent Like a Professional

Working through the process of your child initiating their own goals puts them in the driver’s seat. They are choosing the behaviors they would like to improve, rather than their parents telling them what to do. This alone will help your child to establish that intrinsic motivation; if they don’t meet their goal, they are letting themselves down, not you.

Secondarily, we think that it’s really important (at least in the beginning) to set a desirable outcome for achieving their goal. We all set goals and access reinforcers other than intrinsic ones, so why should our children be any different? I set a goal to exercise four times per week until I reached a goal weight, at which point I allowed myself an indulgent day. We should encourage our children to choose a reinforcer for reaching their goal as well.

Instructional Video: New Year's Resolutions

Watch this short instructional video with "Best Kept Family Secrets" for creating successful New Year's Resolutions:

 Happy New Year and Happy Goal Setting! YOU GOT THIS!

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