Making New Year’s Resolutions With Your Kids

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The knee-jerk New Year’s vows are personal, to the point of narcissism: I will lose weight, I will give up chocolate, I will join a gym, I will get a promotion, I will become a vegan. Maybe that’s why we so often fail to keep them.

It’s not too late to make achievable New Year’s Resolutions. In fact, now that it’s almost mid-January and everyone is settled into their routines, self-improvement vows stand a chance of being realistic. So consider this: making New Year’s Resolutions with your kids.

So sit down with your children. Designate a note taker. Come up with a list of simple and achievable family resolutions for a better and more harmonious life. Forget losing ten pounds. I’d rather have a house without raised voices, any day of the year.

But first, some guidelines. Do not tell your kids what their resolutions should be (as much as it’s our parental fantasy). Do not judge them. Do not laugh.

Try this: Ask them what their best moment from 2016 was, and their worse. Ask them what yours was. Listen carefully. Let them brainstorm. Come to consensus.

Keep the list simple. Achievable. Have fun.

Ideas: No texting at the dinner table. No starting arguments with each other. Clean up your own toys and your own dishes. Pick one family member who you will not yell at for the year.

Avoid “no” or “zero” or “never.” Tolerance is a virtue when it comes to setting goals.

But ambitious is good, too. Such as: No lying. Make our family proud. Be kind.

Then make the list official. Decorate it. Post it in the kitchen or bathroom, somewhere you all can see the collective wishlist every day.

You’ll be surprised how well a list of family resolutions, thoughtfully crafted, hold up over time as your kids grow and your family changes. The family resolutions we came up with together when the kids were all under 10 (“No yelling; be kind to each other; brush your own teeth”) have held up surprisingly well now that my three are all approaching 20.

Lastly, it’s not a bad idea to use the new year to look inward as parent. Maybe you don’t need to share all your own doubts and dreams with your kids; teaching boundaries is, after all, an essential part of parenting. What do you wish you did more of, and less of? What part of yourself have you lost in the vortex of parenting? What have you discovered about yourself? The truism “the years fly by” is solid as any New Year’s Resolution. Parenting is a journey we can always start anew.

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