Time for New (School) Year’s Resolutions
It’s August and a great time to be making new year’s resolutions. New school year, that is. With the school year soon upon us, the time is ripe for reflecting on the successes, as well as the trials and tribulations, of school years past. What worked? What didn’t work? In which areas did your child do well? Where were the pitfalls? What steps can be taken to make this year even better than the last one?
Many of the students I work with are touting plans to have a great school year. “I’m gonna do good this year,” (their grammar, not mine!); “I’m going to get my act together;” and on and on they go. Commendable goals, don’t you think? Yet, while parents are happy to hear their children striving for improvement and success, I am concerned about how these same children might be setting themselves up for failure. The desire to do well, perform better and raise their GPA’s, is something we would like all of our children to develop. How they actually accomplish this, is another story.
The weakness in many of these cited resolutions is lack of planning and forethought. Children are expecting to do things that they have not a clue how to accomplish, or that are simply unrealistic. This is where they find themselves in a no-win situation. And this is how they end up with a repeat of last year’s problems, and with yet another blow to their self-confidence.
When a student tells me, “I’m gonna do good this year,” I want to know what that means to him. Many times they have no idea what to do; they just know they want to do it. My inquiry to the specifics of ‘doing good’ tends to be met with a litany of changes: “I’m gonna do all my homework, I’m gonna get all A’s, I’m gonna study more, I’m gonna, I’m gonna, I’m gonna.” To which I respond with something like, “It’s really great you want to do all these things; what got in your way from doing them last year?” I want to see if they know why homework didn’t get done, what kinds of grades they received, what it actually means to study, etc. It is only after we explore the facts of what happened in the past that we can set specific, realistic goals for the coming year.
This kind of analysis is quite eye-opening. It also offers a way to develop resolutions that are realistic rather than impossible to reach. Developing realistic expectations is the key. It is wonderful for students (as well as parents) to expect successful performance. While expectations can be set high, they also must be realistic. For example, if a student made failing grades last year due to disinterest and lack of effort, then getting all A’s might be a realistic goal. However, if a child who has been struggling and making D’s and F’s tells me he plans to make all A’s, it is very likely that he will fall short of his goal. And typically, once a child realizes that his goal cannot be reached, his efforts to succeed will diminish. It is our job as parents to set high, but realistic expectations, and teach our children to do the same. In this case, it is more helpful to set a goal for improvement of last year’s grades. Striving for all A’s out of the starting gate is not realistic. Starting off with the goal of no F’s and at least one C, for example, is much more likely to be attained. From that accomplishment, can come further goal-setting for the next increment of success.
So, much like the resolutions we make on January 1st each year, our child’s resolutions also need to be realistic and planned out. When we plan to lost 20 pounds in a month, we fail. When we plan to lose two pounds a month, with a healthy eating plan, we are much more likely to be successful. Such is the same for new school year resolutions. Unrealistic goals on the part of parent or child are likely to fail, breeding frustration and poor self-esteem. Setting your sights on realistic horizons will help your child soar into this new school year.
As published in the Hometown News.
© MMVI Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D.