Well, moms, it’s that time of year again. It comes each January, after the gluttony and extravagance of the holiday season when our pocketbooks are empty and our muffin-tops bulge; we prepare to face the coming year by examining our lives and determining what we can do to make it better. That’s right! It’s time to make our New Year’s resolutions.

For years, I have kept a notebook of my New Year’s resolutions. I pull it out each January and peruse the worn pages. Over the last decade, my notebook has been filled with goals pertaining to weight loss, attending church more regularly, daily exercise, Bible study, personal writing goals, improving my parenting skills, being a better wife and mother, saving money and so on. There have been goals as shallow as growing my hair long and using Retin-A to rid my face of the dark patches motherhood has blessed me with, and more serious goals like being consistent in my discipline and praying for my children. One year, I had simply written, “GET PUBLISHED!!!” At the time, I wanted to get a book published — a romance novel to be exact. Little did I know that publication would come that year, but not in the form I originally intended. It came in the form of a funny article written about being a mother for my local newspaper. It goes to show that hard work toward any given goal can bring forth opportunities that you never knew existed. The fact that many of my goals (i.e., lose 10 pounds) seem to pop up on my list year after year is a good indication that I’ve still got work to do, but I’m not discouraged. Setting goals each year is a wonderful way to keep your life on track and headed in the right direction.

Children, too, can benefit from setting New Year’s resolutions. What better way is there to teach a child the importance of self-improvement, goal setting, persistence, dedication and the pride that comes with working hard to achieve a goal? New Year’s is a wonderful opportunity for families to sit down and simply talk about life. What has transpired over the past year? What difficulties have you faced? Was it a good year? A difficult one? Hindsight can be very enlightening, as problems that seemed insurmountable at the time were simply and efficiently resolved. What good decisions did you make last year? What bad ones? And how can we make the coming year even better?

Family Goals:

Setting family goals for the New Year is a wonderful way to ensure that your family remains the close-knit, loving, supportive family you want it to be. Each family is unique, so goals may range from dining together twice a week to spending time on a family project one weekend a month. Other examples of family goals include praying for each other daily, supporting each other in extracurricular activities, reading a common book each month, weekly dinner and game night, a monthly family camping trip, eating healthier meals, attending church together each week or planning a family vacation for the summer.

The most important thing to remember about family goals is they must be set as a family. Sorry, mom! You can’t simply come up with the family goals yourself and post them on the refrigerator. All family members should have a say in setting the family goals, as all are expected to participate. By setting the goals together, family members can encourage each other and hold each other accountable, thus improving your likelihood of success.

Helping Children Set Individual Goals:

Younger kids will definitely need some help when setting individual resolutions. Some examples of goals for young children might be learning to tie shoes, sleep in a big-girl bed, ride a bike, earn money to open a savings account or try new foods. Keep in mind that their goals should be simple, age-appropriate and “do-able.” Kids have enough stress in their lives, so New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t add anxiety. If your hard-working C student wants to improve his grades, then his resolution might be to make a B in math class rather than straight A’s across the board. And guide them in setting positive goals.

Remember, it’s all in the phrasing: “Never eat junk food again!” and “Add more fruits and vegetables to my diet” are two opposite ways of phrasing the same goal. Establishing positive goals will allow kids to make important changes in their lives without setting them up for failure. And don’t forget, goals can be fun. Learning to play tennis or trying out for the golf team may be the initiation of a lifelong hobby.

A Parent’s Role:

Remember, mom, your children are always watching what you do. Think of the message you are sending them as you set your own New Year’s resolutions this year. If you work hard toward your goals for a couple of months but slowly fall back into your old habits, then that is the example you are setting for your children. But by examining your lives honestly and thoroughly, setting positive goals to make important improvements and being steadfast in your pursuit of those goals, you are teaching life lessons they will carry with them throughout their lives.