Helping Your Kids Set Goals


As an adult, you know that setting goals and outlining steps for how you will achieve those goals will help you reach them. The problem is, many of us don't learn about goal setting until we are adults. You can't go back and change that now, but you can pass your knowledge on to your kids. The earlier you do, the sooner it will become a habit they can apply to anything they do from sports to academics—and achieving those goals will help build their confidence.

Let Them Choose
First, be sure your kids know what a goal is. If they say it's when you make a basket or kick past the goalie, you may need to help them understand about other types of goals. You can give examples from your own life. Tell them a story about a time you set and achieved a goal and how it made you feel.

Next, ask them what's important to them and if they would like to set a goal. The important thing at this point is to let them choose what goals they want to set. The best way for anyone to achieve a goal is if it's something they want to do for themselves, not something someone else wants them to do. Even if you hope their goal is to make the honor roll, theirs may be to improve their swing in baseball. That's fine! You want to make goal setting a habit and something fun that they want to do.

If your child sets a goal that's too lofty, steer them towards smaller goals in the beginning that may ultimately help them reach that bigger goal. Unattainable goals will not help them build confidence—it can have the opposite effect.

Make it a Game
Approach goal setting as something that's fun, yet challenging—just like a game. Once they understand what goals are and decided to set one, suggest that they make a game of it. Draw it out on poster board like a road map, complete with steps along the way to achieve the goal and a date when the goal should be complete.

Academic Goal Setting
As your child gets older and better at achieving goals, you may want to see them apply goal-setting to their grades. This is actually the perfect time of year to do it. Start by asking them what subjects will be the easiest for them in the upcoming school year, and which ones will be the hardest. Then ask them what would make them proud of themselves by the end of the school year. Again, it's important not to tell them what you want them to do. They have to do it for themselves.

The most obvious way for them to measure academic goals is through test scores and grades, and it's fine to put that on the roadmap. However, tell your child that they are also a good judge of how much progress they're making. Tell them if they want to talk about any trouble they are having reaching their goals, they can come to you, but don't make them feel like they have to. Make sure they know that goal setting is not something you are requiring them to do, it's just a helpful tool to help them get what they want out of life, and you are willing to be their guide through the process.

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