I know some people think the only fun in resolutions is breaking them, but I’m a resolution enthusiast. I like to look back on the past year and think about what I did well, and in the chaos of this year, that’d be: not stealing my kid’s Halloween candy, actually listening when my son tells me a story he’s already told me 438 times, and staying awake the entire time my daughter wants me to play with her LOL Surprise Dolls. I also take the chance to reflect on what I didn’t so well, like telling my kids I need to eat chocolate for the protein, always sending my in-laws’ calls to voicemail, and my inability to stick to a monthly budget as my family’s Vice President of Fiscal Drainage.
So, now that my kids are ages 8 and 11, I’ve been encouraging them to look back on the highs and lows of their year as well.
Before you go thinking I’m pushing my kids to make New Year’s resolutions about working on on their abs or being more patient in LA traffic, pump the breaks. That’s historically been my list – if you add the requisite “use better language around the kids,” and “read more.” Oh, and I’m always trying to eat less sugar, or less salt, or less food. And one of these years I’ll commit to being more organized and becoming one of those moms who buys Halloween costumes in August and holidays gifts in October. This wasn’t the year for those.
Anyway, as my kids have started to age out of the too-young-to-be-thoughtful phase, I figured they should make resolutions, too, in hopes that they could improve on a challenging habit or two or cultivate a productive one. But, now, a couple years into it, I realize that the value in the exercise isn’t in whether or not my kids stick to their goals; at this age, the very act of making the resolutions is valuable. Here are a few reasons why:
They get — and deserve — do-overs.
We grown-ups often use the end of the year as a moment to take stock and declare a fresh start in areas where we need it. It can be a relief for kids to know that they get second chances, too. So, instead of feeling ashamed for year of bed-wetting or a semester of Zoom school marked by meltdowns, kids get to decide they’re ready to make changes to their behaviors; moreover they get to make peace with who they were then – and celebrate who they are now.
They learn the art of self-reflection.
Is there any parent who thinks of their kid as a perfect angel? Let’s get real. Even the sweetest of kids can go full little dictator at times and be unkind to a sibling or friend or parent. So even at a young age, I want my kids to know that it’s important to regularly reflect on how they treat others, and aim to add more kindness and compassion in their interactions. And helpfulness to mom. Kidding. Kind of.
They are the boss (of themselves, anyway).
Kids love to come up with ideas themselves (even if it’s one you’ve previously brought up 200 times.) So if a resolution list is the vehicle that helps your child decide once and for all to get rid of the pacifier, share their toys with their sibling, or start setting the table each night, great. They’ll be more likely to stick to a plan if they think they came up with it.
So if you’re a resolution naysayer, maybe this is the year to reconsider. Along with the chance for six-pack abs, your kids may become architects of their own growth. Wouldn’t that be something.