Setting--and following through with--goals is an important way you can help your kids succeed. Learning how to determine what they want, lay out a path to achieve it, and celebrate the results is a skill that they’ll use throughout their lives in school, work, and relationships.
Setting Goals to Help Your Child Succeed
There's never a bad time to set new goals. When done well, goals keep your kids motivated and help them learn how to manage expectations and work toward something.
In addition to giving kids the necessary skills to accomplish great things in life, goal setting also comes with the added value of helping kids stay engaged and involved with wholesome, worthwhile activities instead of trouble in the form of drugs, drinking, or other destructive behavior.
Ready to help your kids set goals, stay accountable, and keep motivated? Keep reading!
The first thing to keep in mind as you approach goal setting with your child is that straightforward, specific goals lead to success! Instead of setting a goal to practice reading, set a goal to read for one hour before week, broken down into 15 minutes four nights each week before bedtime. Instead of setting a goal of getting to bed earlier, set a goal to start getting ready for bed at 8:30 each night to be in bed by 9:00. If your child’s goal is to make a sports team, set a goal to to practice skills several times each week for a set amount of time to prepare. Getting specific paves the way for consistency, clarity of the roadmap your child can take to accomplish a goal, and helps the goal seem more doable!
Just as important as setting specific goals is setting goals with your child instead of for your child. As a parent it can be easy to take the reins and the attitude of “Mother/Father knows best.” However, setting goals with your child allows him or her to take ownership of the goal, talk through concerns or questions before committing, and gives them a sense of pride and purpose in setting out to accomplish something they’ve had the opportunity to buy into.
To set a goal with your child, sit down together to first identify what you want to accomplish--or the end result--whether that be getting a better grade, getting more sleep, learning something new, or making a friend. Then work backward from that result to identify the steps needed to accomplish the end result. Write these steps down, and keep them somewhere accessible (like a notebook) to review together periodically. For instance, if your child is feeling lonely and wants to make a new friend, these steps could include smiling at and saying hi to three new people each day, joining a club or after-school activity, or sitting by someone new at lunch once a week for a month. Identifying bite-sized steps that can be incorporated into a daily routine are especially effective!
After you and your child have gone through the work to set goals together and put a plan to achieve them into place, don’t let entropy take over! Regularly check in with your child to find out how things are going and express support and confidence; however, be sure these check-ins are motivated by genuine caring rather than nagging or reminding. Checking in can be as simple as asking a question, expressing your confidence that the child can achieve the goal, and celebrating any wins along the way.
Just as important as setting goals and staying accountable to them is recognizing progress and celebrating victories. When goals are achieved, don’t make the mistake of simply moving along to the next goal without taking the time to celebrate. This can be as simple as a hug, a heartfelt “I’m proud of you, great work,” or a special parent-child date night, depending on the goal and your child. Taking the time to celebrate and acknowledge a job well done helps your child feel validated and proud of what they’ve accomplished and the work they’ve done to get there.
Helping your kids develop the discipline and skills necessary to set goals and achieve goals is one of the best gifts you can give your kids. And the joy they (and you!) will feel as they reap the rewards of goal-setting in the form of new skills, accomplishments, and personal development is one of the most rewarding parts of parenting--and life!
Interested in what you see here? Idaho Youth Ranch offers parenting classes to help parents develop skills to build and maintain positive relationships with their kids. Join our parenting gurus for this series where you can learn skills, ask questions, and have discussions in a non-judgmental, relaxed environment. Learn more about upcoming parenting classes at youthranch.org/parenting-classes.