Help Kids Make New Year’s Resolutions

My name is Jennifer Bishop. I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Boca Raton. I offer services both in the office and virtually through phone or Skype. As a Mental Health Counselor, I specialize in working with children ages 3 to 16 and with Adults on wellness and healing in live their life’s purpose.

New Year’s Day is the traditional time to celebrate a new beginning, and kids ages 7-12 are at the ideal stage to learn to make resolutions. They’re old enough to think about what a New Year’s resolution is and to make their own — yet parents can still help guide them. They are beginning to be mindful and to understand others’ perspectives. They’re doing more independently, and they’re starting to open up to broader goals of how to become their best selves.


Making resolutions with your children can be fun and exciting, a time for growth and change, and an opportunity for family bonding. Here are eight tips on how to make New Year’s resolutions a positive experience for kids and to help them keep in touch with their goals all year long.


  1. Be Resolution Role Models
  • As parents, it’s important to practice what you preach. You have to
  • walk the walk and talk the talk to be most effective. Bring your
  • own resolutions to the table. This is a great thing to do as a whole
  • You can talk with your children about your resolutions, for
  • example, say “Daddy and I have our resolutions that we’re working
  • hard to keep. We make healthy food choices — we may want that
  • big piece of chocolate cake, but we’re not going to have it.”
  • Another example is, if what you want is for your kids to be out the
  • door earlier, you need to work on that yourself.


  1. Keep a Positive Approach to Resolutions

There’s a celebratory feeling to setting goals on New Year’s that doesn’t exist at other times of the year. Present it optimistically: Every day’s a new day, and you have a chance to reinvent yourself. A lot comes from your tone. If you’re putting it in a punishing, preachy way, they’ll be turned off. Start by going over the positive things your kids accomplished last year. Instead of pointing out shortcomings, be the historian of their previous successes.


Have them think of things they can do now that they couldn’t do last year. Say your 10-year-old taught himself to play a difficult song on the piano. Did that success come about because he pushed himself a little harder? Remind him how far that little bit of extra effort took him. Ask your child, “How can you transfer your success on the piano to something else?”


You’ve set the stage. Next, look ahead and ask, “What are some of the great things you want to do this year? What do you want to improve? What will make your life better and happier?”


  1. Suggest—Don’t Dictate Resolutions

The big question parents have at this point: Should you make resolutions for your child? Most experts say no. You can guide and suggest general categories for change, help your child clarify goals, and make sure they’re age-appropriate, but kids should come up with resolutions themselves. This is how they take ownership of their goals and learn to plan.


The first step is to listen. Ask them what they want for themselves. If it’s your agenda that’s driving the conversation, you’re not listening. Still, most kids need a little guidance. Come up with three or four broad categories — such as personal goals, friendship goals, helping goals, and school goals — and let them fill in the specifics.


  1. Narrow Down the Resolutions List

The important thing is not to end up with too many resolutions. We don’t want to teach our kids it’s about making a huge list of resolutions and not following through. Help your child narrow them down to a couple of things to focus on.


Take a fresh sheet of paper and have your child write down her top three resolutions, leaving a large space between each one for inserting smaller steps. Help your child make them realistic and age-appropriate. Be concrete, specific, and manageable. For example, ‘I will behave better’ is too general and will be out the window fast. Encourage goals that are within their reach, so they don’t get discouraged.


Some realistic resolutions for kids might be “I’m going to keep my room neater,” “I’m going to be a better friend,” “I’m going to read more,” or “I’m going to get better at tennis.” Even these are broad resolutions that need to be broken down into doable, step-by-step pieces.


  1. Take Small, Slow Steps Toward Big Resolutions

Turning a good intention into a habit is one of the most important skills we can teach our kids. It’s the key to happiness in life. Parents should help kids break their resolutions down into small steps. For instance, if your child’s resolution is “I’m going to keep my room neater,” he should write down six tiny, easy steps and practice one each week. The first week he puts his shoes in the closet, the second week he picks his pillow up off the floor, and so on. Your child might actually end up doing much more than this. There’s a massive spillover effect, because once people are engaged in their goal, they will do other things as well.

Here are some examples:

  • I will help more around the house … by setting the table for dinner.
  • I will improve my reading … by reading 15 minutes before I go to bed.
  • I will eat more healthful foods … by eating one fruit at breakfast and one vegetable at dinner.

It’s fine to check in with kids each week and acknowledge how they’re doing, but try to avoid tangible rewards. “You can’t bribe kids into doing this. Once you make it external with rewards, you lose them.

  1. Follow Up but Don’t Nag About Resolutions

Check in periodically with kids on how they’re doing. Don’t worry about lapses. Expect them. A lapse is forgetting for a day or two, or having a week in which a small step didn’t work. Or maybe you went on vacation and couldn’t practice. That’s not failure; that’s just trying. No big change is ever accomplished perfectly.


Try not to be a big nag about this. If your child isn’t making progress on a resolution, first affirm how hard it is: It seemed like a great idea, but it’s not easy to stick to. Ask, ‘What’s getting in the way for you?’ Help them get excited about it again.” To avoid parental nagging, try framing the resolutions on a wall as a reminder. You could also have a ritual every month in which you bring them out and talk about how you’re all doing.” Of course, if the plan isn’t working, you can always adjust it. The beauty of letting kids choose their own goal is that they want it for themselves.


  1. Make Family Resolutions Together

Resolutions also bring families closer, especially when you decide to set goals together. Families could plan to do one charitable thing a month and brainstorm about what that might be. You could pick up trash in the park or donate used clothes and toys to a shelter.


Another idea is for everyone to make two personal New Year’s resolutions and two collective family resolutions such as, “Let’s visit Grandma more often” or “Let’s plan a trip to Disney World.”

Many parents suggest doing acts of kindness as part of family New Year’s resolutions. When kids consciously practice being kinder, it makes them happier people and the world is a better place. You can’t force kids to be kind, but you can float the idea and hope they’ll be inspired.



  1. Make Resolutions a Ritual

When you’re sitting down and sharing resolutions with each other, it makes the family closer. You can make it even more meaningful by adding elements of ritual. One of the main rules in creating new rituals is to engage as many of the five senses as possible. For sound, play the family’s favorite music. For smell and taste, cook a fun treat to eat during or after writing resolutions, especially something that smells delicious such as hot chocolate with marshmallows or warm cider with cinnamon. For touch and vision, buy some small objects to symbolize what might happen to a person in the next year, such as a small globe for travel, a football for sports, a book for doing well at school, and so on. Wrap the objects in pretty holiday paper and put them in a bowl. Each person picks one gift (or “charm”) that will “predict” something about his or her adventures in the New Year. Families these days tend to have isolated lives. When you’re talking about what matters to each other, that’s a bonding experience. So turn off the electronic devices — no texting—and pay attention to one another.


Please call or email for additional tips to support you and your child at or 561-408-1098.

For more tools and information, visit my website at