It’s never too young to plan

Should we encourage children to make new year resolutions?

Yes, says parent coach Marian Byrne, who believes the benefits are multiple.

Children who are involved in their own learning, rather than being told what to do, are more motivated and do better. Anything that gets them in control of themselves is good for self-esteem and confidence.

“There’s a sense of achievement — the child learns to do things for their intrinsic value rather than for reward,” says Byrne.

Encouraging them to make new year resolutions teaches them the key life skill of intention-setting. “People who set goals have a sense of focus.”

Byrne recommends sitting down as a family on New Year’s Eve and making resolutions together. Ask: What do you want to do more, less, better or differently? What do you want to start doing, stop doing or continue doing?

She warns parents to be aware of the parental dynamic. “Some parents are very driven and competitive. They want their kids to be the same. Resolution setting has to be led by the child. It’s their process, not yours.”

Which doesn’t mean you have to accept junior’s resolution to eat more sweets or to only occasionally do homework. “The child has choice and control but within an area acceptable to the parent,” explains Byrne.

So the whole family might resolve to get healthier in 2013. Dad might resolve to cut out butter. The child might resolve to drink milk during weekdays instead of soft drinks.

Set goals around your child’s interests. Help him come to a resolution – ask: what are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? How could you do even better?

Encouraging resolutions around care and contribution boosts children’s self-esteem by giving them a sense of virtue, a sense they’re a good person. So they have money to save, to spend and to contribute. “They could contribute to Bóthar, to a shoebox appeal — anything that is around giving back.”

Set family goals — ‘we will eat dinner together every Sunday evening’.

“You benefit because the kids can keep you on track, can keep you accountable,” says Byrne.

Resolution-setting helps children see life doesn’t just happen to them, it helps them feel ‘I am powerful’.


Lifestyle

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a woman who’s growing resentful of her widowed mum’s needy behaviour.Ask a counsellor: My mother is so clingy since losing my dad – what can I do?

More From The Irish Examiner