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This is the simplest thing ever. It is a mnemonic device that will help a child set and remember goals. Have them hold up their hand, fingers spread and then point to each digit as you teach them about each one.

Thumb: the strongest digit. Have them do something where the thumb’s strength is important such as opening a jar or sweeping a floor. With the thumb we think strength=physical fitness goal. They can choose a goal such as, for every hour spent watching TV, they spend an hour outside, running, sledding, biking, etc. Or do sit-ups and push-ups every day. Or shoot baskets to improve their game. As with each goal, though you guide them in the selection, customize it to something they would like to work on.

Index finger: this is the finger children use to point with when they want to learn about something. It’s the finger they use to guide their eyes when they are first learning to read. It is invaluable in holding a pencil or pen. So the index finger=education. This goal can be practicing a language everyday, studying spelling words, writing in a journal, or memorizing times tables. Choose either something they’d like to accomplish that year (something to memorize), or a habit to be developed.

Middle finger: the tallest finger. Reminds a child they want to grow up tall, so they need to eat good food. Tall middle finger=nutrition. This goal could be eating all their vegetables or cutting back on sweets.

Ring finger: because that’s where parents wear their wedding rings it reminds us of families. Ring finger=family. This goal is about what they can do to enhance their relationship with the members of their family. The goal could be helping someone each week, or working at not getting easily frustrated when something doesn’t go their way. Maybe there is a word you’d like them to stop using, or a habit such as forced burping that they could give up. This goal is to help the home be a nicer place.

The pinky is the fun one. When an artist holds a paintbrush, the pinky is often in the air. Think of this as the artistic finger. Pinky=creativity / talents. Goals could include practicing an instrument everyday, learning to draw, or trying out for community theater. Or the pinky can just be whatever they choose.

So the five fingers are:
• thumb—strength—physical fitness
• index finger—learning
• middle finger—tall—nutrition
• ring finger—family relationships
• pinky—artistic—talents-fun

Let them have time to set the goals, a week or two. I’m not going to go into the process of achieving goals: intermediate goals, weekly accountability, readjustment, and so forth. As parents, you already know that kind of stuff. Do remember to remind them periodically: “What does the index finger remind you of?” Helping them realize the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing something is one of the best parts of being a parent.

Happy New Year.