Thoughtful Parenting: Resolutions for the New Year
How many of you make a resolution each year? Whether yours is to cut back on carbs, exercise more or spend more time with your kids, we all know it is a lot easier said than done.
Why is it so difficult for us to succeed? How might we improve our odds this year? After repeatedly failing at my annual resolution to “drink less wine,” I am looking for answers.
In “Switch,” Chip and Dan Health explain that the process begins with making the case for change by appealing to our inner, rational self. But in order to change behavior, we also need to a find a way to motivate our emotional self — actually get excited about making the change.
And finally, we need to map out what the journey looks like, find a pathway to success that has been cleared of potential obstacles. The trick is to select something that you really want to accomplish (internal motivation), rather than something you think you should change (external pressure).
Aha! — I know I should drink less wine but I am not sufficiently excited about doing it.
Many kids set resolutions for themselves too. This gives them the opportunity to engage in some valuable self-reflection. The process allows them to take inventory of the things in their lives that they have control over, such as time spent studying, number of hockey pucks shot, or hours spent sleeping each night, and empowers them to take ownership of the choices they make.
In order to succeed, you must set a specific, measurable goal. Choosing to “eat healthier” is vague, giving you far too much wiggle room as you battle through your daily food landscape. Instead, “eat a green salad every day” is easier to stick to because it is explicit. Whether you are eating at home or out at a restaurant, you know what you expect of yourself.
Taking on something more complex, such as “learn to snowboard,” may involve creating a checklist that includes a series of steps, such as number of lessons and days on the slopes this season. It is important to keep track, both to measure your progress and to show yourself that you are doing what you set out to do. A visible chart helps keep you accountable.
Consider sitting down as a family to create some resolutions for next year. Support one other as you each battle to stick to yours, celebrating successes and good effort along the way. Oftentimes, the process of setting goals and working to achieve them is far more valuable than the behavior change itself.
Mark Twain said, “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” Putting your intensions down on paper is merely the first step. Then the hard work begins. And did I mention … if you don’t succeed, there’s always next year?
Kristi Brown, MPH, is the health and wellness coordinator for Hayden and South Routt school districts and a trustee on the Yampa Valley Medical Center board.
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