New Years Resolutions - Teaching Your Family to Make Real Changes
This article is Part 2 of a series on New Years Resolutions. If you haven't read Part I, then click on the link above to read it first.
Next, I pointed out that their resolution wasn't workable. They had used "I will" which is the future tense and lacking in specificity because it means "sometime in the future." When someone says "I will lose weight" that could mean tomorrow or in twenty years. "I will" also fails to create actionable steps in the present moment. "I will" makes the commitment a far-off goal. The implication is that you will get around to it someday.
Since changing your behavior requires making different choices than you've made in the past, it's important to state New Years resolutions in terms of choice. Following these guidelines, the boys came up with, "I choose to let go of anger while playing sports" and "I choose to respect other's limits."
At this point, the boys heaved a sigh of relief, believing that they were done, but I smiled and told them there was one more important step. If they were to continually to make the new choices that they had defined for themselves, they needed to give themselves a reason that would help them keep making it because it's always easier to stick with old patterns. The boys struggled with this a bit because they had to find a benefit for making this new choice, not just for themselves, but for others. To help, I asked them questions. I asked my eldest son, "If you choose to let go of your anger after making an error, what are some of the positive things that might happen as a result?" He replied, "I'd be more focused and a better team player." So his carefully chosen commitment became "I choose to let go of my anger because it will keep me focused and make me a better team player." Do you see how his New Years resolution has evolved? Do you understand how his final commitment makes it easier and more natural for him to make a new choice?
Next, I helped my youngest son. I asked him, "What positive things might happen if you respected other people's limits?" He answered, "I would feel better and we'd all get along." So his resolution became "I choose to respect other's limits because it makes me feel good and helps everyone get along."
As you can see, these resolutions have a greater probability for success because they involve choice and a compelling reason for acting on it. The boys' commitments are a far cry from "not bug people" and "not get angry." Guiding children through a simple process that gets them from problem to taking action teaches them that change is made not in the future, but in the moment. What I taught my children at the breakfast table that day empowered them and will continue to do so throughout their lives.
About this time, my husband showed up at the breakfast table. When we told him what we had been doing and explained the process, he smiled and fashioned one of his New Years resolutions, "I choose to show more appreciation for my wife because it makes me feel good and lets her know how much I love her!"
I smiled because I am surrounded by loving males, but I'm also well aware that I cultivate this level of responsiveness and if I can do it, so can you.
Although some people pooh-pooh New Years resolutions, recognize their value in your family. Think about what it required for my children to make their new commitments. First, they needed to be self-reflective—they needed to honestly assess themselves and think about behaviors that did not serve them and their family or others. Next, they need to find a way to express their desire to change. Finally, they had to find a way to make change more likely.
As the year goes on, I'll keep you posted on my children's progress. In the interim, I invite you and your family to come up with some New Years resolutions and submit them to me, so I can post them on my site. In addition to acting as a reminder and an impetus for change, as the year goes by, I'll invite each contributor to share their stories and how their New Years resolutions have opened doors and helped them create better lives.
I leave you with this inspirational poem from Maya Angelou:
Since life is our most precious gift, let us be certain that it is dedicated to the liberation of the human mind and spirit ... beginning with our own.
Begin with your own New Years resolutions. Liberate yourself and your children from past conditioning and ineffective behaviors which will help you to realize your true selves and set you on the path toward your dreams.
Laura Ramirez is the author of the multiple-award winning parenting book, Keepers of the Children which teaches parents how to raise children to develop their natural strengths and grow up to lead meaningful and productive lives. The book is a journey of self-discovery for child and parent. Get your copy and begin the journey toward a happier family life.
To learn more about the book and some ideas that will turn your view of parenting around, watch this short video: