New Year's Resolutions: How to Help Kids Achieve Them

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You're probably used to making important resolutions for yourself when January 1st rolls around. This year, why not have your kid join in? 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.

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By Meera Lee

You're probably used to making important resolutions for yourself when January 1st rolls around. This year, why not have your kid join in? 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.

Choose Something Measurable

Kids, like adults, have a tendency to talk about goals in terms that are both indefinite and overambitious. 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. Instead of pledging to win first place at the science fair, a goal that can easily go awry, your kid can promise herself to get a head start by starting her research before the end of January.

Talk to the Teachers

Your kid’s teachers can tell you what they think are the most important areas of focus for her and suggest realistic goals. Once your child has made her resolutions, share these goals with teachers. This way, they can monitor your child's progress and lend some extra help. For kids and adults alike, knowing that other people are rooting for you can be a powerful motivator!

Offer an Incentive

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! Rather than using material objects as incentives, however, consider other types of rewards, like a sleepover with friends, being able to plan the menu for a special meal, or lessons on how to use the family's camera.

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Set the Example

Don’t make your kid feel like she’s the only one who has a challenge on her plate. Talk about your own New Year’s resolutions with the entire family, and periodically show your kid how you’re doing. Your actions say much more to your child than your words do, so she’ll pick up on whether you stick with your resolution or if you let it fizzle out.

Think Beyond Academics

Maybe your kid is already a straight-A whiz kid. Or maybe she isn’t, but New Year’s resolutions aren’t the answer. There are plenty of other ideas for self-improvement: do nice things for the grandparents, be a better friend, learn to cook, pick up a new hobby, keep a cleaner bedroom, help out with household chores, eat more vegetables, or go outside every day. Give your child plenty of options. She’s more likely to follow through on a resolution she chose for herself.

Make It Easier

Once your child has chosen a New Year’s resolution, 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 she may be distracted by the phone or a video game. And don't forget to keep healthy snacks around for breaks. 

For more tips on helping your child with homework without doing it for her, read this!

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