Help Your Child Make Resolutions That Stick
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You're probably used to making important resolutions for yourself when January 1st rolls around. After all, it's the perfect time to reflect on the past year and decide how you might want to improve your life: by getting fit, traveling more, or just spending quality time with the ones you love. This year, why not consider having your kids join you in making New Year resolutions? The holiday season may mark the end of the calendar year, but half of the school year still lies ahead. For many students—especially those who may not exactly have hit the ground running in the fall—it's a valuable opportunity to turn over a new leaf academically.
In many elementary school classrooms, for example, the first few months of the school year are spent focusing on getting kids used to basic routines and structures. As a result, January is often the time when serious learning really kicks in. The new year is a good time for older students to rededicate themselves to their books, too. Bill Toscano, of Salem, NY, has been a middle and high-school teacher for 16 years. He says January marks a transition period between quarters—which is why it's "an excellent time" for a teen who is struggling in school to make a fresh start. This is especially true in today's assessment-focused education system, when spring marks the beginning of standardized testing "season" in states across the country.
Want to help your child vow to embrace good academic habits, but not sure where to start? Here are six ways you can help your child make a New Year's School Resolution:
- Set an example. Talk honestly to your child about how you plan to make your resolutions come to fruition, and encourage him to reflect on his own experiences in school and how he can improve.
- Get in touch with your child's teachers. They'll be able to tell you what they think are the most important areas of focus for your child. And once your child has made her resolutions, share these goals with teachers. This way, they can monitor your child's progress and continue to motivate her. Toscano says that when it comes to starting over in school, "I think the teacher caring enough to sit the kid down and say, 'You can do this!' is one critical element."
- Choose wisely. Help your child choose school resolutions that are clear, achievable, and measurable. Kids, like adults, have a tendency to talk about goals in terms that are both indefinite and overambitious. Instead of pledging to double a test score in math right away, for example, it's much better for a child to resolve to improve by a few points on each successive test. Instead of vaguely deciding to "do better in reading," a more achievable resolution may be to visit the library once a week to pick out a book to read.
- Make it easier. Once your child has made her resolutions, take active steps to create a home environment that's conducive to better study habits. Encourage her to work on homework at the kitchen or dining room table, for instance, instead of in her room where may be distracted by the phone or a video game. And don't forget to keep healthy snacks around for breaks!
- Give your child a reason to keep resolutions. Remember that any resolution, no matter how important, is hard to keep without an incentive. That's the reason so many of us have given up the gym and gone back to chocolate by the first week of February! According to Toscano, "positive reinforcement…is a good thing—especially if the parents, student and teacher work it out together." Rather than using material objects as incentives, however, consider other types of rewards, like extra time with friends, being able to plan the menu for a special meal, or lessons on how to use the family's camera.
- Finally, be aware that not all the resolutions your child makes have to be about hard work! These four simple, positive pledges can make a powerful difference to any student's school experience, no matter what time of year it is.
- I resolve to write down my homework so I don't forget it.
- I resolve to put up my hand and ask questions when I don't understand.
- I resolve to eat foods that are more nutritious and better for my brain.
- I resolve to get more sleep!
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