The youngest generation of children are growing up in unprecedented times. In this year alone, they have experienced a global pandemic, economic turmoil, and an abrupt end to normal school days as most were forced to finish this school year from home.
With their routines disrupted and things changing daily, I have no doubt this generation will grow up to be resilient and able to adapt to anything. To continue to grow in changing times, setting, and achieving goals is of vital importance. Now, more than ever, looking ahead and making goals for our children will give them a sense of stability in an ever-changing world.
How do you teach children to set goals and achieve them? This article will assist as a guide for doing just that.
Things to Consider Before Setting Goals for Kids
There are some things to keep in mind as you get ready to assist your children in setting and achieving goals.
- Your child’s age. If you have children of varying ages, it will be important to cater their goal setting to their age and maturity level. The goals your high school age child wants to set will be vastly different than the ones your elementary school age child will set. Be flexible and realistic.
- Your child’s abilities. Consider your child’s current abilities when setting goals. If your child wants to make the tennis team and they have never picked up a racquet, their goal will need to be more specific, starting with a goal to take lessons or practice daily with an experienced player.
- Your resources. Some goals will require time and funds to make it possible for your children to achieve them. Consider this as you are helping them choose their goals. Reach out to friends and family members who may be able to help your child reach their goal. Community resources can also come in handy as your child strives to achieve the goals they have set. Research programs catered toward your child’s goals they could join. Use all available resources to help your child on their goal setting journey!
- Your child’s interests. Kids are more likely to stick with a goal if it’s something that interests them. If your child likes art, a related goal could be both beneficial and enjoyable at the same time.
- Your child’s needs. Obviously, different kids have different needs. Recognizing your child’s individual needs will help you tailor goals to your child. Nearly every child will be potty trained, learn to read, learn to tie shoes, and ride a bike. However, perhaps your child needs a little more help or focus in a particular area. It could be handwriting, math skills, motor skills, or a host of other categories. Remember if you are helping set goals for kids with autism, ADHD, or other special needs, you will likely need to tailor goals even more specifically to their abilities and capabilities.
The S.M.A.R.T. Method for Goal Setting with Children
When you first sit down to discuss setting goals with your children, their wishes and desires may be all over the place. It is important to let your children dream big, while also helping steer them in realistic directions. The SMART method of goal setting can assist with this.
Your child’s goal needs to be as specific as possible. If your child says his goal is to play football in the NFL, help them create a specific goal toward that. For example, his specific goal could be to start by making a certain number of catches.
With any goal, it is important to have a way to measure and evaluate it. Tracking progress is an important aspect of goal setting. If your child’s goal is to make the middle school football team, teach them a way to track progress toward this goal.
Kids can often come up with goals that are not attainable. If their goal is to become the Queen of England, perhaps use the attainability step to help them create a goal that is realistic. Be ready to explain why their goal may not be attainable.
The goals your children set should be relevant to their lives and future dreams. Like the Queen of England example, if their goal is not relevant, steer them toward a goal that relates to their lives.
A solid goal can be divided into chunks of time and has a deadline or rough estimate of when it can be completed.
It can be helpful to follow a worksheet to capture all the information for the SMART goals your kids create. A sample SMART goal looks something like this.
|Specific||Learn to play a particular piece on the piano.|
|Measurable||Evaluate progress toward playing the piano by taking lessons and getting feedback from the instructor. Measure success by choosing sheet music that increases in difficulty and learning to play it.|
|Attainable||Learning to play the piano is attainable by taking piano lessons, either through traditional lessons or an online program.|
|Relevant||Learning to play the piano is relevant to your child’s love of music and desire to play an instrument.|
|Time-Based||Practice piano each day for thirty minutes each day with weekly lessons. Evaluate the goal after six months and see if your child wants to continue learning.|
Example Goal Ideas for Kids
It can be a bit tricky to come up with specific goal ideas for kids. Here are some good options that can get you thinking.
- Be able to identify all basic shapes by 3rd birthday
- Stay dry for 4 hours during the day for 1 week
- Put away toys every evening for 2 weeks
- Learn to identify 5 letters by sight and sound within 2 weeks
- Count out 20 objects correctly within one month
- Learn to spell first name before 5th birthday
- Read 100 books before kindergarten
- Unload dishwasher every day for 1 week
Young Kid Goals
- Memorize addition facts from 1-10 within 2 months
- Take a shower every morning
- Sweep the kitchen floor every evening
- Practice the violin 30 minutes per day
- Learn to bake a cake before sister’s birthday
- Wash, dry, fold, and put away own laundry weekly
- Memorize all multiplication and division facts during the summer
- Practice free throw shots 30 minutes per day
- Join gymnastics team and practice 30 minutes twice per week
- Memorize lines for school play two weeks before opening night
- Improve 100 meter swim freestyle time by 1 second before the last meet
- Get a college scholarship
- Earn a score of 30 on the ACT
- Ask a date to Prom
Creating a Vision Board
After setting goals, it is important to create a visual to motivate your children. I love to create vision boards. They are a great way to get kids involved in their own goal setting.
To create vision boards, gather magazines, pictures, brochures, or print off pictures the internet. Have your child find images that correlate to their goals. Make sure they find images for each of the goals they have set.
Next, give your child a canvas to start their board. This can be a poster board, cardboard, or even paint canvas. Have your child adhere the pictures they have found to their board. Encourage them to think into the future as well to add to their board. If your child is artistic, have them draw or paint around the pictures to add their own unique touch.
Another great thing to add to the vision board would be a favorite quote or saying that relates to their goal. Have them hand letter the quote onto the board and make it a prominent feature of the board. Kids can further decorate their boards with stickers, glitter, borders, and highlights.
After their vision boards are complete, hang the vision boards in their bedroom. Encourage them to look at the vision board each day to motivate them toward achieving their goal.
How to Track Goals for Kids
Making a goal does no good if there isn’t any follow through. Helping your child track goals will help to keep your child both motivated and on track to completing goals. There are several different ways of tracking your child’s progress. You might find that one (or multiple) work best for your child.
Make a chart
Having a visual way of tracking progress can be a powerful tool to keep your child on track. Listing each step of a goal and having a chart to check off each repetition can be helpful. Or, for younger children, using stickers to keep track of progress can be rewarding.
Keep a journal
Writing down progress as well as feelings about the goal can be helpful for some kids. When the goal is finally completed, they can enjoy looking back at their thoughts from early in the process and see how they’ve grown. Another option is to take pictures as you go. Oftentimes a picture can bring back memories faster than words can. Kids love taking pictures, and letting them have fun with a digital or a polaroid camera can really add to their goal experience.
Talk about it
Regularly discussing your child’s progress with him or her can be beneficial for some kids. However, other kids might prefer to work independently without mom or dad chiming in.
Motivating Kids to Achieve Goals
Speaking of motivation, many children will need an extra push to achieve the goals they have set. It’s hard enough as adults, with our own resources and information, to achieve the goals we set. Imagine being a child with goals, relying heavily on others to achieve them. Motivate your child by being there for them through each step.
As each milestone in the time-based goals are achieved, make sure you celebrate your child for reaching it! Here are a few ways to motivate your child to achieve their goals.
Purchase something toward the goal they need for the next step
If your child’s goal is to make the middle school football team and they reach a milestone of trying out, celebrate by getting them a new pair of football cleats or a new mouth guard. Let them be a part of picking out the reward. This will help motivate them toward reaching the next milestone in their goal.
Get them a treat
Motivate your child along the way with a special treat. Take them out for ice cream or a milkshake. Bake their favorite dessert and let them help. Just knowing the treat is all about them and their efforts to achieve the goals they have set will motivate them to keep going.
While it might seem silly to think that children need pampering, when they’re working on a goal, especially one that require physical fitness, a homemade day at the spa may help motivate them! Instead of an experience massage or pedicure at a salon, create a spa environment at home. Light candles, play soothing music, and dim the lights to create a relaxing space. Help your child do their own face mask. Slice cucumbers for their eyes. Treat their hands to an exfoliating treatment. Your special treatment of them will make your children feel refreshed and renewed and ready to conquer their goals.
Take them on an outing associated with their goal
Depending on the goal, you could take your child to a performance, sporting event, or art gallery. This is also a great opportunity to discuss how those taking part must have had similar goals and worked hard to get where they are.
Dealing with Setbacks
As much as we as parents would like for everything to go smoothly for our children, setbacks are part of life. Allowing children to learn from their mistakes and challenges will help them become resilient. However, we have to know when to step in and try to help. This is something parents have to decide on for their own children.
Younger children may need help to navigate setbacks or even tweak goals to make them more manageable. That is ok. For older kids, struggling through can be a great learning experience. If we have used the SMART system to help them set goals, allowing them to struggle a bit is fine, although it may be hard for parents to watch. Parents can help determine if abandoning a goal and moving on to something else is reasonable and beneficial.
No matter how young or old your children are, setting and achieving goals is a skill that will help them the rest of their lives. During this time in quarantine, even as the world is slowly reopening, it is important that your children feel a sense of continuity. Setting goals for them to achieve in the future will help their development in every way.