Happy 2014! Have you made a New Year’s resolution?
Chances are, you have. And if you’re like most parents/adults, your resolution(s) include some drastic change to your health, lifestyle, or overall well-being.
As I watch various machinations of the resolution dance repeat time and again, I’ve started to wonder what the “resolution business” is teaching our children. From commercials for plastic surgery to a plethora of deals on gym memberships, the self-improvement industry seems to thrive on our whimsical need to be someone better, someone different, someone other than ourselves.
Although the dawning of a New Year is a good time to re-evaluate our strengths and weaknesses and set goals for ourselves, I also think that every opportunity to make a resolution is an opportunity to teach our children a few important lessons. So while we’re on the way to the gym or busy finding ways to de-stress and relax, let’s grab the “teachable moment” and pass along a few important life lessons to our smallest family members.
1. Set reasonable goals
How many resolutions have been abandoned because the goal we set for ourselves was too overreaching, unrealistic or hardly attainable? I have a friend who wants to lose 30 pounds by Valentine’s Day and another who wants to never lose her patience with the kids. Although these are admirable goals, any normal person’s ability to achieve or maintain these resolutions is slim to none. Often, when we don’t reach our goals, we are tempted to give up and cower under a blanket of discouragement.
When we set more reasonable goals that we are apt to achieve with persistence and effort, we can model how small steps are effective to obtain a greater goal while we teach our children and families that careful persistence toward their goals is obtainable for them too.
2. Hard work pays off
In our culture of online gaming, constant stimulation, and persistent rewards, we’re raising a generation of children who have learned that if there isn’t a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it isn’t worth withstanding the rain.
But the New Year is a good time to reflect and reevaluate the best way to achieve our goals. Although the new iPad your child got for Christmas may be gleaming with temptation on the counter, the only way your 4th grader is going to earn an ‘A’ on the spelling test is to avoid the instant gratification and do some hard work. The same applies to adults as we close our laptops, turn off Netflix, and avoid Facebook in favor of going outside for some fresh air and renewed energy as we work to obtain our goals.
3. Hold on to your dreams
How many of us have made New Year’s resolutions to do that thing that we never had time or energy to do? Or how many others have resolved to get back to your roots and follow the path that inspires you? If we resolve to follow our heart, we teach our children that there is value in their what renews their soul.
4. Take time to say: I love you for who you are
One of my persistent concerns about the New Year’s Resolutions is that, in our frenzy to join others and make resolutions, we’re sending the message that we need to change who we are. While we’re coaching our children in sports, academics, or sibling battles, I think it’s important for us to stop and tell each one of our family members I love you for who you are. A favorite in our household is: I love you no matter what.
Even if we’re trying to reinvent ourselves, we need to remind our children that they are gifts that bless our lives no matter the size of their nose, contour of their lips, or the mistakes they make.
This New Year, I resolve to work toward being more patient, relaxed, and grateful. I resolve to try my best to be a good role model for my children, who are wonderful just the way they are. I hope you will consider doing the same.
Kristin Seaborg is a Wisconsin pediatrician who writes about her experiences and perspective as a pediatrician and a parent of three children on her blog, Common Sense Motherhood. To find out more about Dr. Seaborg, you can visit her at her website, www.kristinseaborg.com.