Help Children Embrace New Beginnings

Help Children Embrace New Beginnings

Education January 04, 2020 / By Joanne Foster, EdD
Help Children Embrace New Beginnings

NOW is an opportune time to help kids fortify resolve, bolster effort, and aspire toward successful outcomes. Here are twelve suggestions for parents.

All around the world, people are resolving to do those things they somehow didn’t get to do last decade (or last year, or the one before that). Some people also hope to get a jump on what they’d like to accomplish in the days, weeks, or months ahead.

That said, reality can interfere, affecting even the most well-intentioned person—and resolutions may melt, and renewed vision may blur. It can be difficult trying to balance everything. And, this is as true for kids as it is for adults. 

Here are a dozen practical strategies to help make the months ahead happily productive for families. (Each suggestion is preceded by a short quote extracted from ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids.) 


If you want to foster and sustain a child’s engagement and productivity, aim for a creative and motivating approach, set and co-create clearly defined expectations, and remember to be flexible around pacing or other circumstances along the way.” ~ pp. 110-111 

Help kids figure out a sensible timeline to complete a task. Take into consideration the degree of difficulty. Factor in how appealing it is (because enjoyment motivates and fosters productivity), and whether it’s relevant (because if it isn’t, that will be a deterrent). Let past experiences be a guide for setting the pace for future endeavors.


“Positivity has a beneficial impact on creativity, knowledge acquisition, play, courage, resilience, relationships, and other lived experiences, and helps to make them more meaningful.”  ~ p. 145

It helps to feel upbeat, ready, and confident. Parents can show faith in children’s abilities, and convey enthusiasm about what has to be done. Ask, “What’s the upside?” “How will you feel when it’s done?” 


Both planning and preparation require time, effort, and thought—but they are worth it because they enable people to anticipate and take steps forward, and to respond more purposefully to occurrences, tasks, and responsibilities.” ~ p. 110

Chat about goals and expectations. These should be clear, fair, and attainable. Think about doing things step by step or one chunk at a time. Also, what materials or skills are required? Try to anticipate obstacles, possible complications, and consequences. What kind of guidance, help, problem-solving strategies, or reinforcement might be useful? 


“Sometimes people have to work really hard to get through a challenge and reach that ‘tadah!’ point.” ~ p. 25

Children (and adults) function best and are more apt persevere when they feel safe, comfortable, and supported. Then there’s no limit to possibilities! Keep complexity to a minimum. Eliminate distractions. Strive to be both practical and conscientious. The best kinds of challenges or tasks are ones that are enabling, and that the individual is able to master. 


“Priorities are learning and experience, not performance or product.” ~ p. 114

Honor children’s preferences, passions, creative inclinations, and capabilities, while helping them learn to prioritize what they want to do, and what they have to do—and how they intend to do it. Set up guidelines or routines to make things manageable.


“Play is a forerunner for intelligence, creativity, and productivity. Moreover, through play, children learn how to process and effectively cope with their feelings, get along well with others, ‘shake their sillies out,’ [thanks Raffi!] and enjoy the great outdoors. And, the beautiful thing about playtime is that one never gets too old for it!”  ~ p. 111

Make sure kids have enough breaks and downtime. This includes opportunities to relax, read, enjoy nature, exercise, explore, connect with family and friends, and consolidate thoughts. (See the article “Say Yes to Play” by Dona Matthews.) 


“To facilitate successful outcomes, offer children constructive reinforcement, suggest some helpful foundational information, or provide evidence of headway.” ~ p. 78

Offer genuine and encouraging feedback. Preferably immediately, so kids can feel they’re making progress, fueling a desire to continue to do so. Reinforce participation, collaboration, and the pursuit of values (like kindness or respect for others). Constructive, encouraging comments serve as springboards for forward momentum.   


“Practice demands resolve, self-discipline, and patience.” ~ p. 112

In his bestselling book, “Outliers: The Story of Success,” author Malcolm Gladwell writes,” Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing that makes you good.” (p. 42)  Practice leads to accomplishment. 


“Learning, creative expression, and productive engagement are like embarking upon quests that take time, effort, and patience. Appreciate when time is of the essence—and when a little forbearance or flexibility might go a long way.” ~ p. 77

Most achievements don’t happen overnight. Be calm, responsive, and available to help if need be. Don’t hover.


‘Help kids understand that resilience is important, that wrangling success from failure is a learning process, and that they can find the fortitude necessary to keep going if demands and responsibilities become daunting.” ~ p. 98

Children can learn to see failures, obstacles, and setbacks as gateways to learning. Parents can share this perspective with their children by demonstrating and chatting about the importance of being resilient. For example, Babe Ruth said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” (Check out other kid-friendly discussion-starting quotes about resilience at Roots of Action.) 


“What would the world be like if it was devoid of courtesy, curiosity, and compassion?” ~ p. 20

The words “please” and “thank you” are polite and empowering. Use them often.


“Never underestimate the importance of persistence and hard work; and never underestimate the value of reinforcing children’s and teen’s efforts.” ~ p. 40

A sense of purpose is like your own personal North Star; a beacon that lights the way forward. People who are purposeful tend to be more focused, know where they're headed, and are more likely to get things done—bringing inspiration and effort to fruition.

All twelve strategies noted here can help make the months ahead fruitful and pleasant so that children and parents can feel and experience a well-earned sense of accomplishment. 


Joanne Foster’s most recent book is ABCs of Raising Smarter Kids: Hundreds of Ways to Inspire Your Child.  Readers can find further information about optimal child development by checking out Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids, and Being Smart about Gifted Education (both co-authored by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster). Dr. Foster also wrote Bust Your BUTS: Tips for Teens Who Procrastinate (recipient of the Independent Book Publishers’ Association’s 2018 Silver Benjamin Franklin Award), and its predecessor Not Now, Maybe Later: Helping Children Overcome Procrastination. To learn more about these books, for access to a wide range of articles and links, and for information about professional development workshops and speaker sessions with Dr. Foster, go to

For excellent resources on supporting and encouraging creativity and gifted/high-level development see the assortment of material at Gifted Unlimited LLC

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