Exercise more. Eat a healthier diet. Get a new job. We’re all familiar with some of the most common New Year’s resolutions that adults set each year, but what about your kids? Have your children set any goals for the new year?
While resolutions are a way to help many adults stay on track, creating resolutions or goals is also a powerful skill that we can teach our children. Resolutions help them have a greater sense of self, self-control, and confidence to last a lifetime.

Low Self-Efficacy Versus High Self-Efficacy
If you feel that you cannot change your behavior’s outcome, you have a sense of low self-efficacy. And also, if you determine that you are in some way deficient and cannot reach your goal, you are more likely to make less resolutions and goals. If you fall into this category, you are one of those people who tend to give up rather than fight and push toward your efforts. On the other hand, if you feel your future is within your own making and you have a sense of self-control over completing goals and resolutions, you are a person with high self-efficacy. Our children find themselves in this very situation when they attempt to set goals and resolutions. As a result, success or failure is seen as resting within the domain of his or her own control, and therefore he or she is more likely to achieve his or her goals and resolutions. Thus, a high self-efficacy person can push past his or her effort, stick to the problem, and reach for his or her goals and resolutions. It is in this space between the low-efficacy person and the high-efficacy person that researchers find people that can, in fact, change the course of their lives by changing their behavior.

Setting age-appropriate goals for children

As we guide children towards their fullest potential, we teach them through bonding, observation, social learning, and role modeling how to delay gratification and reach goals and resolutions. A goal could be something as simple as completing a homework assignment or learning about a particular subject.
Of course, goals and resolutions must be age-appropriate. If a child is under 7 years of age, we recognize that they are in concrete operations. Afterward, children slowly move into abstract operations. It is in abstract operations that children think critically. Thus, goals and resolutions, as concepts, do differ for different stages of development and should be created appropriately for each stage. It is true that resolution and goal setting can cause stress, especially when the goals that are set, reach beyond your child’s capacity or when these goals are created in an atmosphere of competition.

Teaching children the value of goal-setting
What you want to communicate while setting goals for children is a feeling of cooperation, rather than competition. In that way you encourage a sense of self in relation to others. This is how we establish community. Then, stress is discharged, because children feel a part of a group while keeping their sense of individuality. Your child is more likely to set a goal or resolution for him or herself if they feel that it is achievable. After this, self-efficacy and goal setting, can foster self-control. Little by little, your child can develop a sense of their authentic self. By teaching your child how to listen to his or her inner voice and vocation, you will find that he or she will set larger goals for himself or herself that are achievable within the construct of self-control. This teaches your child to believe in his or her own capacity, sense of ability, self-efficacy, and self-control.
Through the positive experience of goal setting, your child can learn about himself or herself by taking responsibility for his or her own behavior. This will teach your child the boundaries of his or her own capacity. Moreover, if your child’s goal is not achieved, he or she will perceive that loss of goal, not as a defect, but rather as a result of inappropriate effort. This is how you teach children commitment, responsibility, obligation, and persistence as a way to push past his or her effort positively towards reaching a goal.

Goal setting can result in positive rewards for a lifetime
Furthermore, a child who has developed low self-efficacy is more likely to give up rather than fail; whereas, the child with high self-efficacy is more likely to try harder. Immaturity is the inability to delay gratification, and goal setting is a natural function on the way towards maturity. By looking at your whole child and meeting your child where he or she is, you can help them and guide them towards increments of small goals that can be rewarded and applauded on their way to learning how to set higher, yet still reachable milestones. It is important to know your child, listen to your child, and hear what lies behind their goal setting and resolutions. In this way, you as a parent can determine if the child’s goal is unreachable and, therefore, stress-provoking.
Guiding your child to appropriate goals and resolutions is a parent’s responsibility. By knowing your child, you can create an environment that enhances their strengths and lowers the decibels of their weaknesses. Life is about choices. So teaching your child to consciously and deliberately overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals, you will enable them to deliberately make the right choices for themselves. Finally, goal setting is something you will do until the end of your life. And if, as a child, you develop a sense of high self-efficacy, those goals will reward you until your last breath.



  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.