How to Make the Most of New Year’s Resolutions

When I was in elementary school, most of my friends’ New Year’s resolutions were along the lines of “I will study more, be nicer, eat more vegetables.”  When I became a teenager, common resolutions were “I will save more/spend less” or “I will not argue with my parents/sister/brother.” new_yearIn college, the statements of good intentions took the form of “I will stop insert-a-bad-habit-here.”  Many of the resolutions were not kept but they were remembered.  On December 31— instead of finding an improved version of yourself – you’d only found more guilt.

When I was a teen and I’d hear people complaining about how difficult it was to make a New Year’s resolution I didn’t get it. I’d done pretty well at choosing and sticking to them over the years. It wasn’t that I was any luckier, smarter or more determined.  What made the difference was the approach that my parents took to making New Year’s resolutions.

For my mom and dad, New Year’s resolutions were a way to teach us how to set goals.  This was a skill they wanted us to take into adulthood and they structured the resolution-making so we would find it difficult to fail.

Each New Year’s eve, my parents would ask what we wanted to learn in the upcoming year.  Then they guided us toward a goal that would be achievable and in which we could take pride.  We didn’t set out to be the best at something; we simply aimed to learn something new.  With this tactic I learned how to sew (very well), play the piano (not so well) and to understand and appreciate Shakespeare. My brother made a telescope from scratch, learned to play the guitar and grew from a picture-taker to a photographer. We didn’t spend much if any money on these things.  The materials for the telescope came from a weekly allowance as did the fabric for my sewing.  The books that we used came from the library.  My parents did pay for the music lessons: but only after we’d had a few years of goal-setting that showed we made good choices and followed through.

On December 31 of each year my brother and I would look back on what new thing we’d learned.  Sometimes we also realized that we didn’t like, or we weren’t all that good at, what we’d set out to do.  Sometimes we surprised ourselves by learning we were better at something or liked it more than we’d expected. It wasn’t until we became adults that we realized we were also learning how to set goals and make good choices about how we spent our time and money.  None of our resolutions were life changing in a single year but each resolution was life-changing over the years.

Now I use the same approach when my kids make their New Year’s resolutions.  Here are some ideas your kids can use to get started:

Wondering about art?  Learn:

  • How to draw with pen and ink (or charcoal)
  • Calligraphy
  • How to paint with oils – or water colors
  • Origami
  • Quilling (You can make unique greeting cards with your designs – and learn some history. This paper craft is suspected to have been around for more than 500 years and it was popular in colonial times.)

Wondering about the world? Learn:

  • Another language (a Spanish version of Captain Underpants got my son interested in learning the language)
  • About money from another country (and their economic situation)
  • A dance that originates from somewhere outside your country
  • About world religions

Wondering about you? Learn:

  • Genealogy research skills
  • Biology and life science (read, do experiments, watch films, etc.)
  • The basics of sports psychology
  • Memory tricks (or learn about the science behind magic tricks while you learn to entertain your friends at the same time)

The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn.  ~John Lubbock

Happy New Year!

Expert Mommy, Diane Asyre is a professional writer and owns Asyre Communications.


  1. Diane,
    Another wonderful article! Your articles are full of grounded practical ideas. I myself am tired of unfulfilled resolutions, like loosing weight and exercising more. I loved your list of ideas. I played guitar when I was younger and now as I listen to my son daily practice the drums, I really enjoy the sound of it. So my am considering taking drum lessons. Afterall his teacher does come to our house.
    thanks for the inspiration.
    Lucy Nile

  2. Lucy,
    Cannot wait for the school talent show: there’ll likely be a mother/son combo this year!

  3. Diane,
    great article. thanks for sharing your fresh and inspiring ideas.

  4. hey diane, i really like this, especially the part about teaching kids to set goals. they make a big deal about this at my kids school at the beginning of each year and then revisit the goals and this theme all year long. that is what i like to do with new years resolutions. they do no one ANY good if they last all on a day/week or just through january.

    i like to pick a word for the year. easy to remember and thus easy to live my and more likely to effect my life through the year. my word for 2010? SURRENDER.

    not a war like surrender but more of a “letting go of a clenched hand” sort of surrender. gentle and open. these are the things i hope 2010 brings to my life and that i will bring to 2010. thanks for this post diane. awesome to think about setting goals with our kids for the new year and never to late to do!!!

  5. New year brings lot of changes and happiness in our life. Now we should be ready for face these things.

  6. As tony robbins said “a resolution only requires words where as results require action”.

    It was great that your parents took action to help you with your resolutions. I think the key to helping kids keep their goals is showing them how to take action to get started and follow through.

    Learning something new is a great thing to set as a goal, something I hadn’t thought of before. It is very hard to fail at learning something.

  7. Adam,
    New Year’s or not, I try to remember that simply aiming to learn is a good way to capture a sense of success without undue pressure. I hadn’t seen the Tony Robbins quote before; I’ll be sharing that one with my kids.