Learning how to set effective, achievable goals is an important skill to teach children. For the last decade, I have been setting personal, health and career related goals and while there are many that have yet to be achieved *cough* run a marathon *cough*, I have also experienced a lot of success. Goal setting with your kids can help them to develop their confidence, focus and self-motivation as well as establishing the foundations of a powerful lifelong habit.
So where to begin? With term 1 halfway through now it may feel natural to start by setting an academic goal, however I’d strongly encourage anyone new at goal setting to begin with a personal goal. Through discussion, help your child uncover something that would make them feel proud and excited to achieve.
Ask your child; what do they want more than anything?
This is a broad question. Help your child to narrow it down by highlighting categories that they are interested in (sport, art, food etc.) or areas they may wish to improve (instruments, social skills, etc.). The idea here is to come up with a reasonable goal that is exciting enough for your child to want to work hard to achieve. A family holiday to Disney Land or eating ice cream for breakfast is obviously not the direction we’re looking for here; the chosen goal should be something beneficial that your child can personally accomplish themselves.
Help to break it down into smaller, achievable steps.
We’ve all seen the SMART acronym when setting goals; Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely. Rather than turn this into a worksheet style activity, assist your child in planning out steps to take in the lead up to achieving their big goal. Help them to decide on an appropriate time frame and specific dates when steps could be completed by. Allow plenty of time for each step – it’s always a better feeling to complete a goal ahead of time than to feel like you’re falling behind.
Write goals down somewhere they will be seen daily and talk about them often.
This is, of course, where so many adults fall short. You may have told others about the big goal (remember the marathon) and possibly even one or two of the steps to getting there (Parkrun has seen to it that I am capable of 5km now) but if any of the steps feel a bit daunting, it’s easier to keep quiet and pretend like you’re going to get there without any support (a half marathon has been an unachieved New Years resolution of mine since 2011). Children may need extra incentive as well so it can be useful to set up small agreed upon rewards along the way as each step is accomplished. The idea is that eventually achieving the goal itself will be rewarding enough, but it doesn’t hurt to give first time goal setter some extra motivation!
Finally, celebrate wins and assist with re-evaluations.
I’ve been told that only 50% of goals should be achievable – in other words, you should be aiming high enough so that you’re only successful half of the time. Setbacks, failure and missing the mark is all a part of life and presents a valuable opportunity to teach your child resilience. Whether a goal was too difficult or simply forgotten about, praise your child for the effort they put towards it and then help them to re-evaluate. Change due dates if necessary or adjust the entire goal so that it is more meaningful. Talk your child through a visualisation of achieving the goal (…imagine you’re standing on the podium with the gold medal, knowing you just won the 400m race). If they don’t feel excited and inspired by that, then the goal probably wasn’t right for them in the first place. They should be buzzing with emotion after envisioning themselves at the end point of a goal; harnessing that high vibration energy is the secret to persevering through tough times, so remind your child often to think about how it will feel to accomplish their dream.
For more on this, check out this amazing website for more hints and tips on goal setting. And if worksheets are your thing, they offer some free templates as well: https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/goal-setting-for-kids
~ Bryony ~
Lauren is the owner and manager of MPT, a primary school teacher, tutor and Mum to a very active 2 year old son.