Exercise more. Eat a healthier diet. Get a new job. We're all familiar with some of the most common New Year's resolutions that adults set each year, but what about your kids? Have your children set any goals for the new year?
While resolutions are a way to help many adults stay on track, creating resolutions or goals is also a powerful skill that we can teach our children. Resolutions help them have a greater sense of self, self-control, and confidence to last a lifetime.
Low Self-Efficacy Versus High Self-Efficacy
If you feel that you cannot really change the outcome of your behavior, you have a sense of low self-efficacy. And also, if you determine that you are in some way deficient and cannot reach your goal, you are more likely to make less resolutions and goals. If you fall into this category, you are one of those people who tends to give up rather than fight and push toward your efforts. On the other hand, if you feel your future is your own making and that you have control over the completion of goals and resolutions, you are a person with high self-efficacy. This is the very situation that our children find themselves in when they attempt to set goals and resolutions. As a result, success or failure is seen as resting within the domain of his or her own control and therefore he or she is more likely to achieve his or her goals and resolutions. Thus, a high self-efficacy person can push past his or her effort, stick to the problem, and reach for his or her goals and resolutions. It is in this space between the low-efficacy person and the high-efficacy person that researchers find people that can, in fact, change the course of their lives by changing their behavior.
Setting Age-Appropriate Goals for Children
As we guide children towards their fullest potential, we teach them through bonding, observation, social learning, and modeling, how to delay gratification and reach goals and resolutions. A goal could be something as simple as completing a homework assignment or learning about a particular subject.
Of course goals and resolutions must be age appropriate. If a child is under 7 years of age, we recognize that they are in concrete operations. Afterward, children slowly move into abstract operations. It is in abstract operations that children think critically. Thus, goals and resolutions, as concepts, do differ for different stages of development and should be created appropriately for each stage. It is true that resolution and goal setting can cause stress, especially when the goals that are set reach beyond your child's capacity or when these goals are created in an atmosphere of competition.
Teaching Children the Value of Goal-Setting
What you want to communicate while setting goals for children is a feeling of cooperation, rather than competition. In that way you encourage a sense of self in relation to others. This is how we establish community. Then, stress is discharged, because children feel a part of a group while keeping their sense of individuality. Your child is more likely to set a goal or resolution for him or herself if he or she feels that it is achievable. After this, self-efficacy and goal setting can foster self-control. Little by little, your child can develop a sense of their authentic self. By teaching your child how to listen to his or her inner voice and vocation, you will find that he or she will set larger goals for himself that are achievable within the construct of self-control. This teaches your child to believe in his or her own capacity, sense of ability, self-efficacy, and self-control.
Through the positive experience of goal setting, your child can learn about him or herself, by taking responsibility for his or her own behavior. This will teach your child the boundaries of his or her own capacity. Moreover, if your child's goal is not achieved, he or she will perceive that loss of goal not as a defect, but rather a result of inappropriate effort. This is how you teach children commitment, responsibility, obligation, and persistence, as a way to push past his or her effort positively towards reaching a goal.
Goal-Setting Can Result in Positive Rewards for a Lifetime
Furthermore, a child who has developed low self-efficacy is more likely to give up rather than fail, whereas the child with high self-efficacy is more likely to try harder. Immaturity is the inability to delay gratification and goal setting is a natural function on the way towards maturity. By looking at your whole child and meeting your child where he or she is, you can help guide them towards small goals that can be rewarded and applauded on their way to learning how to set higher, yet still reachable milestones. It is important to know your child, listen to your child, and hear what lies behind their goal setting and resolutions. In this way, you as a parent can determine if the child's goal is unreachable and therefore stress-provoking.
Guiding your child to appropriate goals and resolutions is the responsibility of a parent. By knowing your child, you can create an environment that enhances their strengths and lowers the decibels of their weaknesses. Life is about choices. So by teaching your children to consciously and deliberately overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals, you will enable them to deliberately make the right choices for themselves. Finally, goal setting is something you will do until the end of your life. And if as a child you develop a sense of high self-efficacy, those goals will reward you until your last breath.