It's that time of year again. The time to prepare our New Year's resolutions so we can set them to sail in the coming year. And who says kicking the New Year off right should only be reserved for adults? Certainly not the dentist! When it comes to children, we're big believers in ingraining good habits early in their lives, so let’s take a page from the adult experts in goal planning and share some of that wisdom with our kids? It involves a little bit of mind trickery that'll help your young ones in all aspects of life, and it involves a time machine.
The Amazing Power of Visualization
The time machine? You already know that to achieve a goal it needs to be realistic and measurable, right? But that's only part of it. What savvy achievers do is add an additional step to the mix. Our time machine, if you will. They take a second to visualize the positive results of their plan, and the negative consequences of NOT following through with it. And, they do so as if those consequences were taking place right now. This shift in mindset forces them to avoid making excuses, and allows them to see the consequences of not following through in the immediate sense.
Here's how it works with dental resolutions – you know, the familiar and unimaginative kind ... brush regularly, floss more, and visit the dentist more frequently. Of the three, only brushing is done at the recommended frequency. Why? Certainly not because of a concern for future health. It's likely done because we know that if we don't brush our teeth before work, we can envision an immediate consequence we will suffer today: bad breath. And we definitely don't want to be the co-worker with bad breath, so we brush. We're not thinking about tomorrow or next year, we're thinking only about today. Yet in thinking about the short term, we end up helping ourselves in the future as well. That's the key.
Believe it or not, you've already taught your children to do this sort of risk assessment every day. For example, you tell them to look both ways before crossing the street because of future consequences. You want them to be home before the street lights turn on because of what might happen. Kids understand this sort of thinking just as we do.
So, how can we leverage this sort of thinking when it comes to things they don't want to do, like flossing? Think of how you explained to your child not to touch the stove when it was hot. You probably didn't actually hold their hand to the flame to experience getting burned, you merely got them to think about the result by putting a little bit of fear into them somehow. Granted, your goal shouldn't be to scare children into good habits, but truth-be-told, there is always a little bit of the boogeyman in the things we try to teach our children. This is how we learn.
So with regard to things like flossing, perhaps it can be helpful to show kids what ignoring their teeth looks like in the future. Pictures of people with gum disease, for example, might help a kid to imagine themselves in the same predicament. Or, if a relative wears dentures or has other dental concerns, perhaps they can help bring these consequences to life for a child as well. There's nothing quite like seeing Grandpa take his teeth out of a glass for demonstration purposes. There are, of course, many ways to work this time-shift into your routine – stick to your own parenting style and you'll come up with something that works.
So help your kids ring in a wonderful New Year. The planning and goal setting are great life skills, and if your children learn early to follow through on their goals now, in the future, they'll be among the treasured 12% of people who regularly fulfill them! Good luck, and may you have a blessed New Year!