As we near the end of what has been a trying year, you may be wondering how you can help your child feel more grounded in their world, or even encourage them to reinvest themselves in the things that interest them. One way you can do both is by working with them to establish meaningful and achievable goals.
Goal setting is an essential skill that researchers suggest children learn early on. When children grow up having the tools and skills needed to set valuable goals, they are more likely to succeed, feel confident, and go after their dreams.
The strategies below will help you teach your children goal-setting skills that can benefit them not only in the coming year, but for many years to come!
Strategy #1: Use the SMART Method
When it comes to setting goals, especially when working with children, you want to ensure they know how to set goals that are actually tangible. The Center for Children in Utah recommends using the SMART method. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely-Based and was created by George T. Doran, a former Director of Corporate Planning. Using the strategy allows them to create a goal they can actually achieve (as opposed to creating a goal like “To travel to Jupiter by June,” which would be nearly impossible to achieve) while also keeping it relevant and timely to their needs.
Strategy #2: Use “Famous” Examples
"Having someone to look up to who has achieved something remarkable makes goals seem more achievable for ourselves, especially as children."
There’s a reason why humans have sought role models for thousands of years—having someone to look up to who has achieved something remarkable makes goals seem more achievable for ourselves, especially as children. Children’s media company BrainPOP uses real-life, historic examples to talk about attaining goals. In their example, they use the SMART method to set goals for mountain climbing before tying it back to Edmund Hillary’s trek up Mount Everest. And thankfully, there are examples to pull from in all areas. Maybe your child wants to be an artist like Frida Kahlo or an astronaut like Sally Ride. Having a famous example gives children someone to look up to and positively model behavior after.
Strategy #3: Create a Detailed Plan
VeryWell Family recommends creating a detailed plan for helping your children to accomplish their goals. Does their goal require them to practice music daily or run a certain number of miles in a certain amount of time? How will they reach this? The detailed plan, such as starting with learning how to sight-read or gradually running longer distances each day can help make their goal seem more attainable.
Strategy #4: Use Metrics
In the same VeryWell Family article, they also advise using metrics to measure the accomplishments along the way. For example, if your child’s goal is to swim a certain distance under a certain amount of time, they might not get there right away. Using metrics to measure their progress along the way will give them a feeling of accomplishment that will push them to continue working toward their goals.
Strategy #5: Break Down the Goal into Smaller Steps
Nothing feels more overwhelming than having a huge goal looming over you, especially when you’re a child. That is why Big Life Journal recommends breaking down goals into smaller steps. Similarly to using metrics to measure progress, smaller steps will make the goal feel more attainable to your child, especially if the goal is a big one, like learning to play an instrument or speak a new language. These smaller steps can be implemented into their detailed plan. This way they can keep track of their progress and how close they are to achieving their overall goal.
Strategy #6: Reward Each Step
"While achieving the goal is what they’re aiming for, each step is a milestone and deserves praise and celebration as well. "
Encourage your child to celebrate their accomplishments along the way. While achieving the goal is what they’re aiming for, each step is a milestone and deserves praise and celebration as well. From taking breaks to eating something special, rewarding each step accomplished will inspire new motivation and make the entire journey feel well worth it.
Strategy #7: Anticipate Roadblocks
Nothing in life goes smoothly. That’s something we learn along the way, but it might be something your child is learning for the first time, especially as they work to achieve their goals. Big Life Journal recommends talking to your children about roadblocks and what they can do to anticipate them or handle them if they come up unexpectedly. This is an opportunity to ease children into the idea that not everyone is perfect and sometimes, things go awry. One way to tackle this could be to come up with a list of things that could go wrong. For example, if your child is attempting to run a mile in a certain amount of time, one roadblock could be a summer trip that would interrupt their practice schedule. Or maybe they twist their ankle and have to take a few days off. Having a list like this prepares them for the unexpected and gives them the freedom to take breaks and take care of themselves. This will help to keep them on track, better manage and learn from failure, and retain the motivation to keep going.
Strategy #8: Don’t Be Afraid to Make Adjustments
"Think back to your own life, especially the goals you had as a child. How did you adjust your plan along the way to get where you are today? Share with your children how you forged your own path and adjusted until you got to where you wanted."