At this time of the year, gyms are packed, diets dominate the banter or morning talk shows, and advertisements attach products and services to a collective desire to re-craft ourselves…But like so many other cultural rituals, setting New Year’s Resolutions might not be a concept that can be easily applied to kids, tweens and teens.
“Resolving” to do anything that requires long-term commitment might seem like a dealbreaker for youth. But we could find countless examples of kids, tweens and teens who set goals and achieve them. One recent example: Jordan Romero’s Christmas Eve feat of climbing to the top of the seven highest peaks in the world (ending his journey in Antarctica!). Too ambitious for your ten-year old? Fret not. There is something to learn from Jordan’s story…
While psychologists and educators note the importance of teaching youth to set goals (with interventions among at-risk youth often incorporating planning and goal-setting as part of a holistic “recovery” program), and both sets of experts acknowledge that this might be a practice that requires support from adults (i.e., it’s not instinctive), Jordan’s story suggests that a healthy New Year’s Resolution might be focused more on what youth are passionate about than what youth “should” do. In the early days of any new year, blog entries abound that suggest helping kids set health-oriented New Year’s resolutions…Encourage your preschoolers to put away a toy every time they play…Challenge your tween to try a veggie at every meal…Ask your teen to research one potential college once a week. And while all of these goals might be noble, and clearly worthy of mom’s and dad’s encouragement, maybe these self-help ideas are more about parental hopes than about connecting kids with great goals. It’s not just that these “to-dos” feel more flat than fun (we know that teaching kids, tweens and teens that sometimes meeting their obligations isn’t all about entertainment), but it may be demonstrating that planning is unpleasant.
As an extreme, but telling case in point, look at Jordan’s journey…He set a difficult goal, but one that he (and his family) was personally invested in. He not only thought that fulfilling his goal would be a feat, but he described a sense of passion and fulfillment that he got from the view at the top. Climbing, for him, is a lifestyle he embraces – not a chore he’s charged with. Jordan and his family have founded the “Find Your Own Everest” movement to encourage youth to set meaningful goals, but more importantly, to find that goal that matters to them.
So if you want the youth in your life to stick to a promise this year, start by sussing out their interests, not their shortcomings, and focus on helping them find what they love, not fix what’s wrong with them. Perhaps this should be the New Year’s resolution that every parent and organization embraces for 2012.