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Helping Your Kids Create New Year's Resolutions

3 Research-Based, Non-Boring Techniques

1️⃣ "What’s something new you want to do, and how are you going to do it for fifteen days in January?” 

Why fifteen days? 🧪 Science. 

There are lots of theories about how many days it takes to build a habit, but most of those theories come from a single study done with adults. Kids’ brains are more plastic, meaning it’s possible for them to form habits faster.

Researchers working on a child nutrition research project found that fifteen days (three school weeks) was enough repetition to build a lasting habit in kids. Encouragingly, the research found that the habits held even if kids missed a day (and of course they weren’t practicing on the weekends, either!). Other research supports this conclusion as well. 

Fifteen days isn’t a magic number. Not all kids are created equal and not all habits are, either! But it is a good, research-based starting place.

2️⃣ “What kind of person do YOU want to be next year? Let’s come up with a few things that will help you get there.”  

It’s easier to keep to our goals when they reinforce our identity.

In other words, when we start our goal-setting process by asking “What kind of person do I want to be?” and then create goals that help us reach that self-image, we end up being more successful.

The technical term for this is an “identity-based motivation framework.” 

Here’s an academic overview of the concept from researchers at Cornell, USC, and UT Austin.

And here’s a more conversational overview from Legends favorite James Clear. 

Kids this age are in the early stages of identity formation, so a question of “what kind of person do you want to be” might be perplexing to some of them, but leading with an example will help. 

Then, you can use this as a base to set concrete goals that they’re more likely to follow. 

3️⃣ "Let’s write down five goals. Then, one by one, cross out four until you’re left with one. Now let’s make a plan for that goal."

Why? 4️⃣ reasons:

  1. Because it’s fun to cross things out. Everyone agrees with knows that!

  2. Because when we brainstorm multiple options, we feel more confident in the choice we eventually make, even if we end up picking the option we thought of first! 

  3. Because research shows autonomy and choice are strong motivators, so we’re more likely to feel committed to goals when we not only choose them for ourselves, but consciously prioritize them over other things we want. Kids are especially motivated by choice and autonomy because they naturally get less of it in their lives than we do as adults. 

  4. Finally, because writing down goals is something we know works.

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