At this time of year young people -- and their parents -- often take time to look ahead to the new year. One family I know has a ``Looking Ahead'' supper in January and they talk over the good things of the past year: a family trip, a new pet, an afternoon with grandpa, feeding the birds, sledding on a slippery hill, sharing a game on a winter afternoon, the day they walked in the rain, what was best about the holidays. Then this family sets family and individual goals for the new year. Why not re solutions? That's an intimidating word, meaning a formal pledge achieved with determination and will power. Goals are better since they are desired objectives achieved with creativity. Youngsters like that idea -- it frees them from being locked into an outlined plan. And what fun it is to live adventurously!
In helping your children to make goals, see that some are easily attainable, others require more work. Let some be very specific (to save $50 by April 1) and some nebulous (to make my room a cozy place).
Encourage children to make goals for character and lifestyle improvements as well as for material ``wants.'' Sometimes children are unaware of areas that need improvement and if the idea is presented attractively (``You'd look prettier at the table if you didn't lean on one elbow'') a child readily accepts the challenge. Family goals might be:
To take an after-supper walk regularly.
To save electric costs by turning off
unnecessary lights and appliances.
To plan a summer camping trip.
To start seedlings indoors.
To never say ``shut up.''
To get to know a new family. Goals for younger children could be:
To learn to tie bows.
To save for a skateboard.
To feed the dog each day.
To always tell the truth.
To be a good sport at soccer.
To clear the dishes every night.
To get along with my sister.
To make a crate car. Older children can consider:
To get a driver's license.
To learn to play the guitar.
To be in the school play.
To make a jacket.
To smile more often.
To hang up clothes once a day.
To be more even-tempered. And parents aren't exempt from goals:
To be home four nights each week.
To read a book each month.
To verbalize appreciation daily.
To become a ``B'' tennis player.
To plan family activities that are easy on the pocketbook but high on fun for the whole family: hikes, picnics, round-robin storytelling, visits to a zoo or museum, a ride on a subway to somewhere new, a tour of the fire station with a sack of cookies being your entrance fee.
If parents begin the goals conversation by discussing their own aims first, children will be less shy in talking about desire and self-improvement. But the rule is that suggestions to others should begin with the phrase, ``Would you like to have as a goal . . .'' (to raise your spelling grade from C to B . . . or to earn money for camp).
Each list should be a compilation of what a child wants and what a parent or sibling can inspire a child to accomplish.
Keep these lists and bring them out the first of each month to talk about them again -- or even change them. Hoorays and plenty of praise for progress. No derogatory comments about unachieved goals. Hints on the ``how to'' of achieving help, too.
And when you look at these lists next New Year's Day -- you'll be pleased with all you've accomplished!