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Why Do New Year’s Resolution’s Fail? Because We Need to Get SMART!

Dec 28, 2018
New Year's Resolution

Happy New Year! At least that’s what we are hoping for, right? As the year comes to a close, people find themselves reflecting on the past year’s accomplishments and challenges. We look for ways to refresh relationships, improve our performance at work, home or school, and set a new direction on things that are important to us. 

So why then, do so many people fall short of achieving their goals, and in some cases, abandon all attempts early on?  Most often, it is because we don’t know how to set the right goal. 

This year, try to set a “SMART” goal.

What does that look like? Let’s use the example of a busy parent who wants to improve their parenting of a young school aged child, who is becoming more argumentative and somewhat difficult. 

First of all, a SMART goal is specific: it includes the who, what, where, and why.

  • What do you mean by, “you want to improve your parenting of your challenging child?” Are you saying you want your child’s behavior to be better, or are you saying that you want to use better parenting skills? Let’s say you agree to focus on your own behavior. So, the who is you, the parent.
  • The what and where: After reflecting, perhaps reading a couple of parenting blogs or books, or talking to some family or friends who know you well, you decide that spending some uninterrupted quality time at home several times a week doing something your child loves would be helpful. So the what is the special time doing something your child loves with you.The intention is that your child will experience you as curious and interested, unconditionally accepting and loving during that time. Listen, listen, listen and set parent driven problem solving aside.
  • Now for the why. While there are many, you know it’s important that your child is happy and healthy, and that you have done the things a parent can reasonably do to support them. That’s a good why.

Now to measure your goal.

  • You decide to spend 15 to 20 minutes of uninterrupted time at least five times per week doing something with your child that they want to (within reason) and enjoy doing. Make your own little chart, or use your calendar to check off what you did that day.If you get to five or more a week, you hit your mark.

    Make the goal attainable!

  • Is it reasonable for you to do these things and can you remove the barriers or get the supports you need to make that happen? While you should expect some setbacks along the way, and may need to adjust some of your supports to get the job done. Perhaps it a little bit of a stretch because of your work schedule, but you think you might be able to pull it off. Check this one off!

    And how is it relevant?

    You are aware that you are often frustrated with yourself for losing patience with your child. You decide you want to stop that before things escalate. You want your child to know they are loved and appreciated and want a better bond. So your goal is relevant!

    And now for time sensitive. Having a timeframe in mind helps you to organize your efforts and set a time to reevaluate.

  • You decide three months (considered to be a good amount of time to develop a new skill or habit) is a reasonable timeframe to get a sense of whether your efforts are paying off. And by then, are you sharing regular moments of joy with your child and have gained perspective and new appreciation of things that create an opportunity to set yet another SMART parenting goal?

Whether it be parenting, health and fitness, or some other personal goal that you want to accomplish, step back and set a SMART goal. Doing so will help you avoid emotionally driven and unrealistic expectations for the new year that are likely to be unsuccessful. It’s also a great opportunity to show your kids that thoughtful and calm problem solving to overcome a hurdle or to achieve a new goal can pay off.

A happy and SMART New Year to you! For up-to-date information you need for your child, subscribe to our free Health e-Hints e-newsletter. It’s customized for your child. Sign up here.

Featured Expert

Nancy Cunningham
Nancy Cunningham, PsyD
Behavioral Health

Dr. Nancy Cunningham is a psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital who has provided child and adolescent clinical services and overseen program development in their behavioral health department.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.