New Year’s Resolutions

Yes, it’s that time again: the beginning of another year when about half of all Americans decide to embark on making New Year’s resolutions. With the best of intentions we create lofty goals geared toward helping us to become better in some way, shape, or form because our bottom line is that we do not want a repeat of last year. Essentially, we want to realize positive change in our lives, and we believe our proverbial New Year’s resolutions are the catalysts to get us to where we want to be.

Although the number of individuals making New Year’s resolutions is declining, they are still a popular part of our traditions as observed by the media and research organizations which continue to pour resources into providing us with statistics around the very topic. For instance, consider the following “Top American Resolutions” listed in order from most reported to the least:

Most Reported New Year’s Resolutions

21%  Weight loss

14%  Improve finances

14%  Exercise

10%  Get a new job

7%    Healthier eating

5%    Manage stress better

5%    Stop/reduce smoking

5%    Improve a relationship

3%    Stop procrastinating

3%    Set time aside for self

3%    Start a new activity/hobby

2%    Improve my work habits

2%    Stop/reduce drinking alcohol

1%    Assertion/learn to say no

As you can probably agree, these resolutions are all worth striving for because they are intended to help us improve ourselves in some way.  Yet, statistically, only about 8% of people who make resolutions are actually successful in achieving their resolutions. To add insult to injury Time found that many of our most popular resolutions are also the very ones which are broken the most:

Most Commonly Broken New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Lose Weight and Get Fit
  2. Quit Smoking
  3. Learn Something New
  4. Eat Healthier and Diet
  5. Get Out of Debt and Save Money
  6. Spend More Time with Family
  7. Travel to New Places
  8. Be Less Stressed
  9. Volunteer
  10. Drink Less

At this point you may be asking yourselves, “Is this a no-win situation?” Statistically speaking, it seems like we are setting ourselves up for failure. The truth of the matter is that it is just as easy to make a resolution as it is to break it—neither require any real work on the part of the participant. However, realistically speaking, while the resolutions noted above are indeed good and noble pursuits, they are actually difficult to accomplish because they are all major lifestyle changes that involve self-reflection, a reprioritization of priorities, a deep level of commitment, learning, planning and time. Also many of these changes will impact the lives of those closest to us which is another important factor that must be included as a part of the process.

So, what is the solution to our New Year’s resolutions? According to Amazon.com, you could possibly find an answer to that question among the 23,283 books written on the topic, although that seems like quite a lengthy pursuit for one to undertake. An alternative suggestion involves you choosing just one lifestyle change that is most important to you and then begin working toward it, slowly but consistently, keeping in mind that you are not so much focused on achieving a goal that can be accomplished by the end of the year; rather, success rests upon integrating a lifestyle change over time until it becomes a vital part of who you are and a part of your life that you no longer wish to compromise. While this may seem daunting, big changes typically start small, have many steps, and take time, patience, and diligence. Yet it is my wish that by approaching New Year’s resolutions in this way you will be able to realize positive change in a manner that will be both self-fulfilling and sustaining over your lifetime.

Sources:

“New Year’s Resolution Statistics” http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/

“New Year’s Resolutions by the Numbers” http://www.details.com/story/new-years-resolutions-by-the-numbers

“Top 10 Commonly Broken New Year’s Resolutions” http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,2040218,00.html

Amazon.com: 23,283 results for Books: “new year’s resolutions”

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_22?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=new+year%27s+resolutions&sprefix=new+year%27s+resolutions%2Caps%2C168

Behavior Therapy 101: How to achieve positive behavioral changes with your children

If you have kids (or pets, for that matter) then chances are that you have used some behavioral therapy techniques on them. Behavior therapy involves the use of reinforcement and/or punishment to increase a desired behavior or extinguish an unwanted behavior. Here are some practical pointers on using positive reinforcement (praise and point charts in particular) with your children. Much of this information was gleaned from Dr. Alan Kazdin (you can check out more of his materials here).

Changes in Behavior Occur When…

  1. The reinforcers increase the strength of the positive behavior. If they do not, you may need to choose different reinforcers.
  1. The reinforcer should occur immediately after the positive behavior.
  1. Your child must perform the desired behavior before receiving any reinforcers.
  1. For new behaviors to occur, the reinforcer needs to follow the behavior every time.

Four Types of Reinforcers

  1. Material Reinforcers: Tangible items such as toys, clothes, and candy.
  1. Privileges of Activity Reinforcers: Time together with the parent, slumber party, staying up late, chore done by the parent.
  1. Social Reinforcers: Your approval! A smile, a wink, a hug, and praise.
  1. Token Reinforcers: Items given to your child that can be exchanged for more valuable reinforcers.

How to Make Your Praise Most Effective

  1. Deliver praise when you are near your child. When you are close to your child, you can be sure that the behavior you are praising is taking place. Also, when you are close, your child is more likely to pay attention to what you are saying.
  1. Use a sincere, enthusiastic tone of voice. You don’t need to be loud, but make sure that you sound thrilled about what your child is doing.
  1. Use nonverbal reinforcers. Show your child you are pleased by smiling, winking, or touching. Hug your child, high five him, or pat him on the back.
  1. Be specific. When praising your child, say exactly what behavior you approve of. “Wow, thank you so much for picking up your shoes and putting them in the closet.” You want to be specific.

Helpful Hints to Make the Point Chart Work

  1. Remember to praise and give points immediately after the desired behavior.
  1. Review the chart with your child at the end of every day. This gives you a chance to praise the number of points accumulated that day and review all the positive things your child has don’t to earn the points. Also, when few points have been earned, it gives you a chance to handle it neutrally and encourage your child to earn more the next day.
  1. Have some of the rewards available every day.
  1. Give rewards as agreed. Once your child has earned enough points to buy a reward, he should be allowed to receive it regardless of anything else that may have happened that day.
  1. Encourage your child to buy rewards each time. Remember, it is an opportunity to reinforce the behavior you are working on.
  1. Bring the point chart to our sessions each week whether or not it is completed. That way we can track your child’s progress.

 

Points Chart