Modern life is often typified by bursting schedules, meals on the fly, and never-ending alerts, emails, and texts on our phones. Yet if we simply do and do and do without pausing to reflect, we can find ourselves stuck on a hamster wheel. Reflection is essential to self-knowledge, and self-knowledge can propel us toward self-improvement -- toward making choices that align with who we want to be.
Helping Your Children Reflect
- Build on Strengths: When we set goals, we often start from a place of
deficit-- something we are not doing or something we see as a weakness. But sometimes focusing on our successes can inspire us to build on that trajectory of strength. As parents, one knows our children’s strengths better than anyone. We’ve spent a lifetime observing them grow. So tell them what you notice -- their empathy, their grit, their curiosity, their courage. When they encounter that challenge or daunting opportunity, encourage them to reflect on who they are and how they have overcome/embraced similar hurdles in the past. Remind them of moments when they have been through something similar. How did they do it then? What could they do the same or differentlythis time around?
- Set a Family Goal: Spend some time reflecting as a family. How do you want to grow together in the next year? What do you want to accomplish? Your goal can be anything, but here are some hints for making it stick:
- Word it positively: Make the goal something you are striving to do or be -- not something you are trying to avoid. In other words, rather than “We want to spend less time on TV and social media,” try “We want to spend more time talking and playing games together.” You could also pick a word or phrase that will serve as a family motto for the year -- such as service, literacy, strength, compassion, joy, or curiosity -- and then reflect on fun, practical ways to make that word come alive in your family.
- Make it visible: Find a way to keep the goal front and center. A poster? A post-it on the bathroom mirror? A monthly family meeting? A jar where you drop in stones or coins when you catch others working toward it?
- Listen, First: When adolescents share what they are going through -- socially, emotionally, academically -- resist that urge to jump in and solve their problems for them. But we can serve as a loving guide, asking questions such as:
- What do you want the outcome to be?
- If you could wave a magic wand, what is one thing you would change about this situation?
- What are some strategies that might help you in this situation?
- What is one step you can take?
- What is in your control in this situation, and what is not in your control?
- Does this choice match
whoyou want to be?
- What information do you need to make an informed decision?
- What other help do you need? From whom?
- How Writing Down Specific Goals Can Empower Struggling Students, By Anya Kamenetz, NPR
- Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even If You Hate Doing It), Jennifer Porter, Harvard Business Review
- The Importance of Setting Family Goals – and How to Do It, by Angela Pruess, Parents Co.
- TED Talks on Goal Setting
For Parents of Younger Children
The language we use with young children can help them think about their choices and develop the habit of reflection. To learn more about the research on this (and for some practical strategies) read Preschoolers and Praise: What Kinds of Messages Help Kids Grow by Deborah Farmer Kris.