Many adults are embarking on their New Year’s resolutions and implementing new habits for themselves. It might also be a good time for parents to start guiding their children in exploring their own goals and growth. Beatrice Stewart, director of Community Based Service for Great Circle, shares how you can start your child on a journey of personal development and achieving their goals.


Sparking Internal Motivation

It’s always great to get the gold star and a pat on the back, but the process is just as important, if not more so than the achievement. When you love what you’re doing, just taking part in the activity becomes its own reward.

If you want to nurture internal motivation in your child, having discussions about their passions is a great place to start.

“If you see your child light up during an activity, ask open-ended questions to get them talking about why they enjoyed something, and why it’s important to them,” says Stewart.

An “adventure diary” might help kids reflect on what they’re getting joy from and what’s boosting their self-esteem. As children get older, Stewart advises to ask them more complex questions, like “what’s a challenge you would feel very proud to overcome?” or “what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

With children of all ages, it’s important to pay attention to the parts they’re getting right.

“Praise your child for the effort he or she is putting forth into a task, not just the outcome itself,” instructs Stewart.

A parent or guardian taking notice of what the child is putting into a passion or a goal will encourage that child to appreciate the process and take pride in the small moments. 


Structures to Turn Goals into Actions

Once your kiddo has found what they would like to explore and what they’re aiming to accomplish, help them put their goal into specific language, this will help them recognize their progress. It can be helpful to break a larger goal down into smaller parts.

“You don’t want the goal to be so big they can’t accomplish it, and it leaves them feeling overwhelmed,” says Stewart. “A ‘goal ladder’ is a great idea, so they can see the steps as they go.”

Setting up visual reminders, like a note on the bathroom mirror, chart or planner can help them better understand the steps they’re about to take.

After you’ve prepared your structures, it’s time to take action. The first steps into something new can be intimating, but it can be less scary if you join them on this new adventure and let them follow your lead. You being by their side is just as important as the guidance you can provide.


Staying in the Habit of Growth

As most adults who have let their New Year’s resolutions fall to the wayside by February can attest, sticking to your goals and staying motivated is a challenge at any age. It’s going to make it easier for kids to stick to their path when they have the support of a caregiver and when they’re prepared for the bumps in the road. Have a conversation with your child about potential barriers, like getting bored, frustrated, or distracted so they know they’re not alone in having difficulties.

Many people abandon their goals after a setback because they take a hit to their self-worth and start to associate their goal with negative thoughts about themselves. One way to counter this is to teach your child positive self-talk. When a child practices thinking of themselves in a positive regard, it becomes less likely that running difficulties will send them into a negative spiral. And remember, it’s okay to fail, setbacks are necessary to building resilience.

“The important piece is getting back up on your feet to try again,” says Stewart. “Encourage them to be persistent and sit back and watch their confidence grow!”