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For the last quarter of a century (can you believe it’s been that long?)...
We’ve once again reached that time of year when people take a look at their lives and try to figure out whether they are meeting their own personal goals and if not what they are going to change and how.
New Year’s resolutions are nothing new. The tradition began in the 18th century BC, when the Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year. Millions of people carry on with the tradition today and many have great results. According to the American Medical Association, approximately 40% of Americans participate in the New Year’s resolution tradition and 46% of those who make common resolutions such as weight loss or increasing exercise were over 10-times more likely to succeed compared to only 4% who chose not to make resolutions. Based on that data, it’s a great time to try to make a few simple changes.
As a parent, you are continually helping your children achieve goals in every aspect of their lives. Encouraging them in making New Year’s resolutions is a good way to reinforce some of the behaviors you have already been trying to instill and to further develop some excellent character traits. So how do you approach resolutions without everyone wanting to give up after the first couple of days?
Pick age-appropriate goals
The American Academy of Pediatrics gives suggestions of resolutions that are suitable for different age groups. For example, preschoolers can be encouraged to pick up toys and put them away after playing, while tweens can be persuaded to wear a bike helmet every time they go on a bike.
If the goal is not realistic, the child will not be successful. Make sure that what your child wants to achieve is actually possible given their current age, development and other circumstances. If it is currently too daunting, maybe reduce it to more manageable tasks. Alternatively, instead of picking one specific goal, you could aim for a selection of positive new life experiences throughout the year, such as trying a specific food, reading a particular book, or trying a different activity, etc.
Using a reward chart can work well in getting young children to stick to a resolution they have set. Younger kids respond well to small, frequent rewards, but it can also help in encouraging older children to remain on track. For older age groups try setting longer-term targets with a larger reward at the end.
Lead by example
If your children see you trying to stick to your resolution, they are more likely to persevere too. If your own goals are along similar lines, such as trying to exercise more frequently, then try to do things in parallel. Why not go for a jog while your son or daughter is at soccer practice?
Making resolutions on behalf of your pets is also good in helping them to lead longer, more fulfilling lives and can further increase the bonds between dog and owner. Again, typical resolutions like increasing exercise levels (see our post Why getting active with your dog will change your life) and reducing caloric intake are worthwhile goals to set – our earlier blog post (Obesity shortens lives) may help with the latter. If you already give your dog plenty of exercise, have plenty of interaction with other dogs, and don’t have any dietary concerns etc, there may be other areas of your pet’s life that could be improved in the coming year. Have you considered whether they are riding safely enough in your vehicle? If the answer to that is no, then maybe installing a vehicle-specific pet barrier to keep them secure on a journey would be a good, positive change in your dog’s life.
As with resolutions for children and pets, unless you choose a resolution for yourself that is realistic, you aren’t going to persist for very long, if at all. Pick one aspect of your life that you really want to improve and then look at achieving it in workable, attainable segments. For example, if you want to lose 10 lbs, break it down into a target of 1 lb per week achieved by doing specific activities, such as walking every morning or taking the stairs at work, within that time frame. Reward systems aren’t just for kids, give yourself little treats along the way for goals achieved. Equally, don’t lose heart if you don’t quite meet your target – maybe tweak what you are doing, but keep at it.
Do you have any tips or hints for sticking to New Year’s resolutions? We’d love to hear them. As for my resolutions? Well, enriching my vocabulary with a new word a week is one of my personal goals – blog readers, you have been forewarned!
Wishing you a peaceful and fulfilling 2018.