Goal-setting is an important and often over-looked skill that your child needs you to teach him or her. Learn the 5 essentials of helping your child become a goal-setter…and achiever!
Well, here comes January, with all its big, fancy talk about resolutions. I heard something funny the other day that pretty much sums up how that goes for me:
My resolutions go in one year and out the other. 🙂
I’m pretty sure that none of my little ones have even heard of the word “resolution” yet, and that’s ok with me, because what I really want them to understand is how to set real goals. And I want them to know how to break those goals down into steps so that they can actually achieve those goals.
I’d even say that goal-setting is an essential life skill that I want to be sure I’ve taught them. But sometimes as parents we can forget that these life skills are actually, well —
that have to be learned.
Unlike shoe-tying or potty-training, where a face-plant on the concrete or a drippy mess on the floor quickly lets us know that it’s time to start teaching our child the corresponding life skill, learning how to set goals can be a lesson that quietly gets pushed aside in the day to day hustle of life.
Benefits of teaching kids to set goals
But the benefits of teaching young kids how to set goals and attain them are huge!
Kids who achieve their goals develop self-esteem and a “can-do” attitude. Boosted by previous successes, they’re more likely to approach the next life challenge with an extra measure of confidence. They think, “That was hard. And if I was able to do that, then maybe I can do this too!”
Setting goals teaches kids how to take responsibility for their own actions, behavior, and learning. It’s one thing to have a dream, but it’s another thing to know how to break that dream down into actionable steps. Helping your child set a goal teaches him that he has the power to make it happen. Rather than being up to Mom or Dad, his success is dependent on his own actions.
A child who has learned how to turn a dream into a goal, and then thoughtfully laid out the steps required to achieve that goal, is set up to become a confident action-taker as an adult. Kids who experience first hand how planning, hard work, and diligence get them great results become grown-ups with the know-how to turn their dreams into reality.
the 5 essential steps to helping your child set attainable goals
1. Let your child decide which goals to set
Collaborate with your child to help her discover which goals are best for her. It can be helpful to ask questions like “If you knew 100% that you would be successful, what one thing would you like to accomplish?” or “Why is it important to you that you accomplish this goal?”
If your kiddo is going to stand a chance at staying motivated, though, she will need to be the one who really “owns” the goal. In other words, she needs to either come up with the goal herself or think it’s a really good idea!
Dictating each and every goal to her, whether she is interested in it or not, will probably not light the fire inside that pushes her to achieve them.
2. Start Small and Keep it Simple
Making a grand, broad goal right away can be overwhelming. And when it’s overwhelming, it’ll be hard to follow through as your child becomes frustrated and doesn’t see the progress he envisioned.
Instead, start small and aim for goals that can be broken down into simple steps. You can always add more goals later. Keep the goal realistic and attainable. Take into account your child’s age and maturity level.
For example, my son loves Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. And even though he dreams of being first place overall in the next tournament (not likely at this point!), I can help him find a smaller goal to serve as a sort of stepping stone to the bigger one, such as perfecting his arm bar move so that he can more easily win matches.
3. Help your child Break each goal into actionable steps
Once you’ve helped your guy narrow down an achievable goal, it’s time to help him figure out the exact steps he will need to take to achieve that goal.
This is probably the most important part of goal-setting because it gives his dream the power to actually become reality. A dream without a real plan is just going to remain a dream, right?
So, in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu example, where my son is trying to perfect his arm bar move, his actionable steps might look something like this:
Step 1: Choose to not complain about going to practice when you would rather stay home and play. Have a good attitude about improving your skills.
Step 2: Practice, practice, practice the move, over and over, until it is second nature.
Step 3: Ask Coach to show you where you are missing opportunities to win a match with the move.
Here’s another example:
My son also has a timed, 100 Math Facts test looming on his academic horizon when Christmas break is over. His one simple goal is to get a 100 score on the test. Here are his actionable steps:
Step 1: Drill with flash cards until every math fact is memorized
Step 2: Take several timed practice tests
Step 3: Learn test-taking strategies for the day of the test.
4. Measure your progress
We all want to know when we have achieved our goal! So, you and your kiddo will need to decide exactly what success will look like.
How you will you measure progress?
How will you know when you’ve succeeded?
It’s a great idea to track progress with charts, stickers, coloring sheets — anything that will give your child something to look at so they can see how they’re coming along. This helps build up momentum and anticipation as they get closer to reaching their goal. Being able to actually see with your eyes how you are making progress is so motivating!
Having a deadline can also be helpful (especially if you’re prone to being a procrastinator, like me!). You can even assign mini-deadlines to each action step, if that makes sense for your goal. Of course everyone is different, but for some people (ahem, that’d be me) this is a really effective way to get motivated.
And, of course, do not forget to CELEBRATE with your kiddo when he or she achieves their goal! Not only is it just plain fun to look forward to a celebration, but it’s pretty motivating too. Watching the progress chart climb toward the goal gets 10X more exciting when you know that there’s a reward waiting at the top.
And even more importantly than that, it lets your guy or gal know that what they have done is a big deal. We want our kids to know that we think it’s a huge deal that they’ve worked so hard for something! And that kind of persistence deserves a celebration!
That is, after all, the whole point of teaching them to set goals: So they will understand that dreams can be turned into reality with a plan and hard work.
A free printable to help you out
I had a lot of fun thinking about a way to make this process a little more appealing to my first grader, and of course, I’d love to share it with you too!
I created this camping-themed pack as a way to start a conversation with him about goal-setting and to get him brainstorming.
The first sheet is great for helping your kiddo brainstorm about possible goals he or she would like to set. I used it more as a way to get my son daydreaming about things he’d like to do and accomplish this year.
I didn’t filter anything out for him. It was really fun to see what was in his heart and got him excited.
The second page comes in handy when it’s time to break those goals down into actionable steps. You can print out a page for each goal, and fill in the steps for each one. For us, though, at first grade, probably only one or two goals will make it to the second page.
There are also habit and money trackers as well!
This cute little pack is available for FREE in my Printables Library. The library is password protected and available only to email subscribers, but if you’re not a subscriber yet, we can fix that for you right now! Sign up right here, and you’ll get immediate access to this printable and everything else in library as well.
Want to remember this for later? Pin it for yourself or to share with others!
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