, Salem, MA


January 3, 2014

Dr. Kate's Parent Rap: Connect with your child to create positive change

Adults make New Year’s resolutions because they want to have a better year than the one before. The start of a new year is symbolic of change and the desire to create a new beginning. Getting to the gym, getting a healthy meal plan, and getting financially sound and organized are among the top New Year’s resolutions. Every January, millions of people vow to make positive changes, but as February and March approach, quite often those promises are broken. According to the website Statistic Brain, out of the 45 percent of those who make resolutions, only 8 percent achieve their goals. Although adults are committed and motivated when they decide to make changes, the odds are not in their favor that they will actually reach their goals. This is because change is really, really difficult. Change for children is very hard, as well, and parents need to recognize this when they are asking their children to make changes.

Unlike adults, children have little to no understanding of what it means to change and, therefore, no motivation to change. I recently asked a fairly sophisticated 10-year-old what he thought a New Year’s resolution was. He responded, “It’s when someone resolves to make a change before the end of the next year.” I probed further. “What kind of a change?” His response was, “like stopping smoking.” Although he used the right words, it was pretty obvious he had no real idea of what a New Year’s resolution was. The truth is that the idea of change is a foreign concept to children and, therefore, must begin with the adult, not the child. Children can develop motivation to change in response to a strong connection with an adult. A classic example of this is when an underperforming child performs better after developing strong rapport with a new teacher.

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