Last updated: January 01. 2014 9:02AM - 338 Views
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Dear Grandparenting: I made a small wager with my two grandsons that involves keeping New Year’s resolutions. My grandsons are ages seven and nine. Whoever is the first to make their resolutions wins $10. Each side put $5 in the pot. Their resolution is to swim five laps of their club pool without stopping to rest. Mine is the same I make every year Ð stop smoking and lose 40 pounds. I keep screwing up on my resolutions but I keep coming back. I know firsthand that most resolutions fail. Why is it so darn hard? Charles Bowerman, Seattle, Wash.

Dear Charles: Does any other collective enterprise involving both grandparents and grandchildren even come close to matching the popularity of New Year resolutions? Even more remarkable, the great majority of participants never come close to achieving what they set out to do. But year in and out, young and old return to the same starting line come January 1, raring to give it another shot.

Are Americans suckers or what? A nation of optimists is kinder, all that futility aside. The ancient Romans began each year by making promises to their god Janus, for whom January is named. New Year resolutions continue around the world, but nowhere does the practice enjoy the fervor bestowed in the U.S. There’s a certain something in the American psyche — the booming self-improvement industry, the enduring belief in personal responsibility Ð that begets resolutions. “God helps them that help themselves,” said founding father Ben Franklin, and it stuck.

According to Richard Wiseman’s 2007 survey of 3,000 individuals, more than half of us will make New Year’s resolutions and 88% will fall short. That’s 150 million annual failures in the U.S, alone, but new studies by brain researchers and behavioral scientists offers fresh hope for resolution-making diehards.

The situation seems to favor your grandsons. Resolutions are more successful when they are shared; peer pressure can works wonders. Your grandsons can become mutually reinforcing in pursuit of their objective. They also enjoy another advantage. Researchers say setting a concrete, measurable goal (five laps) is preferable to sweeping resolutions like stopping smoking. Better to begin by resolving to eliminate a habit, like that cigarette with your morning coffee. Your concrete goal of 40 losing pounds, while admirable, seems like a lot to take on. Why not begin by resolving to lose 10 pounds?

Most recently, resolution researchers have seized on the discovery that humans have a finite reserve of willpower. With a limited amount on hand to work with, you spread yourself way too thin by making two resolutions. One is about all we can handle at any given time.

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Brooksie from Kingsport, Tenn. overheard older grandson Randy share this wisdom with his younger brother Frank.

“Grandparents love to give goodnight kisses. If you wipe them off, that makes them think you need more!”

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Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.

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