January is inevitably a time of renewal, rebirth, and general redoing.  Weight loss commercials clog the airways.  Sheets, towels, and furniture are on clearance.  Christmas decorations are tucked away in the attic, and everything seems back to “normal”—whatever your normal entails.  During this time of shifting and reorganizing, most people drag out those New Year’s Resolutions, and make a list of things to improve upon in the upcoming year.  I would guess that most people have similar lists:  lose weight, get pictures organized, get on a budget, give more time to charity, spend more quality time with the kids, try to understand the kids’ social drama, try not to yell at the kids so much while trying to understand them, etc.  And while all these things are good to write down, and try to cross off a list, I can’t help but think that perhaps a list of small, specific goals instead of “resolutions” might be less daunting and more attainable. 

For example, instead of “organizing pictures,” one could “make a 2010 photo book.”  While some might say those sound the same, and that the latter is just a more specific task to cross off a list, to me it’s a more attainable goal than the insurmountable one of “organizing all pictures in the history of my thirty-five years.”  I can make a photo book with the pictures from just one year; at least, I think I can.  Then, that might give me just enough incentive and motivation to go back one year to 2009, and make another book.  I don’t want to push my luck–but how I would love to be caught up on all those pictures in my thirty-five years. 

In having this conversation with myself, I came to realize that making goals with my children might have some kind of positive effect as well.  There is chatter in the educational world that goal-setting with students can have positive effects on their performance, and this year I am testing that hypothesis.  Admittedly, some students do tend to put in a little more umph when they see where they want to be at the end of their struggles.  Put that information on a graph, and that picture of their own specific performances ties effort to success.  Some students are disappointed when their goals aren’t met.  Others are motivated.  It’s an interesting dynamic, and one that I also wonder about regarding my own children. 

We had the New Year’s Resolution conversation at the dinner table on New Year’s Day, and I actually had to define resolution for my kids.  It was my seven year old that finally said, “Why don’t you always make a list of things to do better?”  Ok, good point.  Athletes do it constantly.  Talk with a marathon runner or high school basketball player, and both will discuss “beating their time,” or “increasing their percentage.”  So there it is:  goal setting at school, and goal setting in physical fitness.  Why not goal setting for simply being a good kid? As we wound our conversation around the table, we talked about the usual things:  being nicer to brothers, being nicer to sisters, keeping bedrooms clean, doing homework after school, etc.  From there, our conversations evolved into methods of “being a better sister.”  When situations escalate, as they do every single day, instead of screaming, kicking, and crying to solve problems, we brainstormed specific behaviors to try.  Now, I hear myself saying, “What would that super sweet sister do to fix this situation?”  Yes, I sound super dorky saying that, but those that know me, embrace my dorky factor—and my kids are stuck with it despite my resolution to change that fact. The bonus for me is that my screaming, kicking, and crying fits have decreased by a factor of twenty at least—which helps me work on one of my goals:  to “be a better parent.”

Personally, I’ve never written down official New Year’s Resolutions.  Maybe it was because I didn’t want to fail in my quests, but revisiting a few personal goals around the dinner table as a family?  That, I’m looking forward to, and that I can achieve.