Kids can easily be overwhelmed by demands to monitor their food intake and take insulin several times a day. If doctor orders seem too daunting, they may not be motivated to do it.
Kevin’s secret to success is having a give and take with his young patients over setting goals. Together, they create a plan with the hope of achieving small successes, and then building on them.
“I want them to know what the goal is – the ideal – but I am okay with them setting their goal at a more reasonable level as opposed to being perfect,” he said. “I sometimes describe it as scaffolding. You build on initial small goals and it will get you close to where you want to be long term.”
It’s a lesson all parents may want to heed when it comes to your children’s goals – or at this time of year, their New Year’s resolutions.
Encourage your kids to set goals, help them to be realistic, but let them take the lead.
“It has to be child led, especially by the teen years,” Kevin said. “If it’s coming only from us it’s probably not something they will be motivated to do.”
That said, your kids might need guidance if their goals are idealistic. If your sedentary son or daughter dreams of running in the next Akron Marathon, you might suggest a more modest near-term objective, like exercising 3 or 4 times a week.
Instead of aiming to lose 30 pounds by summer, a better short-term goal might be to cut back on soda and eating out.
“Our approach puts less emphasis on getting perfect right away, so it is seen as a process,” Kevin said.
“It’s really important for the goal to be reasonable. If it’s overly ambitious, they see it as a failure, and it discourages them from setting other goals.”
Have your kids chart their progress. When they achieve the goal, they’ll have a sense of accomplishment, and they likely will be motivated to do more.
A goal-setting tool he uses clinically is called SMART:
- S – Be specific (“I’m going to work out 3 times a week.”)
- M – Measure it. Track your progress.
- A – Make it action-oriented.
- R – Be reasonable.
- T – Make it time bound. Set a deadline to reach your goal.
Family goals are a good idea, too. More people involved make it harder for individuals to drop out. It also sets a good example.
“Even teenagers still learn from the actions of their parents,” he said.