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3...2...1.. Happy New Year! With the turning of the calendar year, we often reflect on the previous year, while looking forward to a new year where we can try to better ourselves with each passing day. Many adults struggle with keeping their new year's resolutions, so it's no surprise that kids also struggle with goal-setting and action plans. How can we turn the page on a new calendar year while also turning a page with your child's behavioral and academic success?

Begin With Self-Reflection

Having your child set random goals ("I'll study harder..."I'll be nicer to my sister...") isn't productive unless there is a connection to areas that needed focus the previous year. Ask your child to think about their past year and identify a couple of things they think need improvement. From there, you can come up with realistic goals that address areas that your child has identified. Don't be afraid to ask your child some focusing questions if they give general responses like, "I'll try harder in school." Ideally, you want to pinpoint a specific area or skill where you can target your goal. Follow-up questions like "Is there a subject, skill, or behavior that you can think of?" will help dig a little deeper in the goal-setting process.

Create an Action Plan

Use a calendar to come up with a series of steps or check-ins that will become their year-long action plan. You can create these benchmark goals monthly or weekly, but having a visual plan for your child to monitor and track their own progress is a great way to keep on track. For example, if your child's goal is to keep their room cleaner, you could set weekly chore goals such as picking up toys, putting away laundry or dusting. Another positive reinforcement is a reward to completing the month's action plan, which can also be created by your child based on what activities they find valuable.

Conference and Check-In

At the end of each month, have your child check in with their action plan. Were they successful meeting their weekly or monthly goals? To give your child some autonomy in the process, have your child lead the meeting, where they honestly reflect on their progress for the month. If they achieved every benchmark, then celebrate! If they fell short, ask if they want to alter next month's action plan to better meet their needs. When your child has a voice in their progress, they are more likely to hold themselves accountable for their progress.
 
Creating new year's resolutions gives us hope to be better people during the upcoming year. Remember, a goal without a plan is just a wish!

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