01/14/2013 08:23 pm ET Updated Mar 16, 2013

What Our Kids Teach Us About New Year's Resolutions

My 12-year-old granddaughter, Lisa, sat beside me on a grainy beach in Hawaii. Staring out at the horizon, I struggled to come up with New Year's resolutions that I knew I'd stick with. Coarse sand dug into my thighs. As if sensing my inner confusion, Lisa covered my hand with her fingers.

"I don't know what to do, I said. "I don't know what resolutions I can actually do."

After all, this past year I'd only been successful with two of the six resolutions -- I'd lost fifteen pounds and joined the board of two non-profits. I took a deep breath, hoping to find inspiration. And there she sat quietly next to me. I turned to face Lisa's calm expression.

"Do kids your age make New Year's resolutions?" I asked. "Do you manage to keep them?"

"Well," she smiled. Her braces reflected the last of the sun's rays. "Kid's resolutions are easier. And they usually have something to do with school."

"What do you mean?"

Perhaps trying to 'improve my life' was too broad? Maybe I needed to compartmentalize and just focus on how I might change one or two behaviors, rather than try to do too much?

"Like, we don't have to worry about dieting, or smoking or drinking," Lisa explained. "I hear some of my friends' moms often talk about how they struggle to lose weight. When they think we're not listening, they gossip about someone or other who drinks too much. Kids mostly focus on school stuff."

I turned to face her. The sky was getting hazy -- and so was I. Perhaps I needed a bit more help.

"So what kinds of things do you and your friends resolve?"

"Things like, 'I'll be friendlier to the new kid in class' or, 'I'll always hang out with kids during the break, rather than sit and read in the classroom'," my granddaughter told me with a smile. "Then we write up our resolutions and hang them on the wall. That way we remember them. Our teacher told us never to have more than two."

What Lisa said made so much sense. Why, I wondered, had it taken me so long to fathom it? I usually had too many commitments, so by the end of January my best intentions got lost in my hectic schedule.

"By the way," Lisa added. "Whatever you decide to do, make it practical, not abstract. I don't really think just saying that you want to get better at something works." She pulled me to my feet as a wave crashed onto our legs.

"You have to say -- I will get an "A" not "B" for math. And also, there's an app called Astrid Tasks that'll help you too. Here take a look," she said, handing me her cell phone. "All you have to do is add your task and set reminders. This will nag you to do the things you said you'd do. It's really simple to use," she added noticing my tech tentativeness.

This year, I've made only two resolutions. I've shared them with Lisa. Two notes are stuck on my bathroom mirror: "Leave work on time," and "One hike every fortnight."

I sneaked in a third: "Keep learning from your grandchildren." Oh, and I've downloaded the app.