How to Help Your Kids Set and Stick With New Year’s Goals

The year is coming to a close, and New Year’s resolutions are again at the forefront of our minds. Resolutions are great for teaching kids how to set and work towards goals. Even as adults we struggle to keep resolutions, so it’s especially important to help kids create meaningful and achievable goals throughout the year.

How to Create New Year’s Goals

At IET we use several methods to help our students not get sidetracked from accomplishing their educational and life goals. A simpler method that allows for students to think through each component is WOOP:

  • Wish: A meaningful, challenging, and feasible wish or goal
  • Outcome: The best result or feeling from accomplishing your wish
  • Obstacles: Something inside of you that prevents you from accomplishing your wish
  • Plan: If [obstacle], then I will [effective action]

WOOP uses mental contrasting by asking participants to contrast a wish with an inner obstacle and then create an if-then plan. This means students identify a wish and outcome that’s meaningful to them, an obstacle inside of them that could prevent them from achieving their wish and plan. The contrasting is important because research shows positive thinking alone doesn’t help students meet their goals.

The second method to help your child craft a sustainable plan is SMART:

  • Specific: Resolution should include goal, skill being worked on, and how it will be achieved
  • Measurable: Track progress on a chart or through regular check-ins
  • Attainable: The goal should be ambitious but realistic, something that will stretch skills but not overwhelm
  • Results-oriented: The resolution should explain what the student will be able to do once the goal is reached
  • Time-bound: The resolution should have a reasonable time frame and can include mini-goals along the way (mini-successes are just as motivating and as amazing as the big successes)

Another major must:

  • Relevance: Your student has to want and be excited about setting and going after their goals.

What an Achievable Resolution Looks Like

* The following has been sourced from

new year's resolutions

Your child’s specific goals will depend on their challenges, abilities, and interests. Here are a few examples of how you might help refine ideas.

Social Skills Resolution

Beginning idea: “I would like to have more friends.”

Resolution: “This year, I’ll make more friends. Twice a month, I’ll invite someone over from school or Scouts.”

Academic Resolution

Beginning idea: “I’m going to get all As this year.”

Resolution: “In January, I’ll get a B or better on every science quiz by studying at least 45 minutes for each one and asking my teacher for advice on studying.”

Athletic Resolution

Beginning idea: “I’ll start running and make the varsity track team this spring.”

Resolution: “To learn to run, I’ll download a training app. Then I’ll practice for a Valentine’s Day 5K. If I like it, I’ll find a 10K over summer break.”

Working Toward a New Year’s Goal

As your child works on achieving their resolution, they’ll also be building important skills like:

  1. Self-reflection: “How do I want to improve this year?”
  2. Self-advocacy: “What do I need to do to help me reach my goal?”
  3. Self-awareness: “Am I making progress toward my goal?”
  4. Problem-solving and self-control: “What can I do to get back on track?”
  5. Self-esteem: “How does achieving my goal make me feel?”

Encourage your child to step back and ask questions like these—or even discuss the answers with you—along the way. They’ll help your child stay on track and get more out of the experience.

Helping Your Child Stick It Out

However good their intentions—and plan—your child may sometimes have trouble persevering. These tips can help you help them:

  1. If your child agrees, consider joining. You’ll make each other more accountable. “I’m also looking to exercise more this year. How about we swim together at the Y every Saturday morning?”
  2. Don’t nag. In addition to the regular progress checks you’ve built in, ask questions and offer reminders—but in ways your child can accept. Some kids might respond well to: “I know you wanted to have someone over twice a month. Has that happened yet for February?” Others might do better with, “We don’t have any plans this weekend, if you want to have a teammate over.”
  3. Share your own experiences. Reflect, share, and tweak your goals rather than getting upset with your child for not achieving them. So if reading 50 pages per day to finish in a week was too ambitious of a goal, next month set aside more time or adjust the goal to 35 pages per day.
  4. Make it meaningful. Let your child work hard at her resolution. If she doesn’t achieve it, you can help make sure that her struggle is motivating, not paralyzing. Talk through how things went off-track and what she might do differently next time.

Key Takeaways

  1. New Year’s goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound.
  2. Even if a goal isn’t reached, the way is really the goal. Meaning, the act of setting and working toward a goal can be just as meaningful.
  3. You can help your child stay on track without overstepping or taking over.


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