Imagine this – your child seems to have the potential to be a great student but is not willing to focus on studies. Or is very good at sports, but does not want to practice to hone his skills. All parents want their children to succeed in life. We want them to be able to solve problems. But when our children don’t try hard enough to accomplish something we all get frustrated. As parents, what can we do to help our children? One way to kindle a “can-do” attitude in our children is to help children learn to set goals and achieve them.
Importance of Goal Setting for Kids
Napoleon Hill once quoted, “A goal is a dream with a deadline”. We all can dream, but to achieve our dreams we need to quantify it. We need to help our kids and encourage them to have a dream and make goals to achieve it. Goals give children a purpose, focus, and motivation. Teaching children to reflect and set goals is a very vital lesson that needs to be taught at a young age.
Goal setting is important to children because:
- Setting goals and working to meet them teaches children to be perseverant. This is an important life skill that they will need along their way.
- Goals give children a strong sense of purpose. This boosts self-belief and can improve children’s confidence. This is a significant and productive skill.
- Goals give children an objective in life and help them make better decisions. Kids who have dreams and goals – be it sporting, academic, personal or any others – will do better in life than kids with no plan at all.
- Goals can be motivational as well as inspirational. Because the goals are meaningful and personal to children, they will want to achieve them. Having goals in life inspires them and give them the energy to keep going.
- Teaching children to set goals is setting them up to strive in life. It shows them to put words into action – “You can do anything you set your mind to” or “you can be anything you want to be.” It gives them the tools to be anything they want to be.
Goal setting is a life skill, a means of self-reflection, a self-improvement tool, and self-discipline. Children learn so much while setting and achieving their goals that getting to their goal becomes only a part of the victory!
How to help children learn ”Goal-Setting”
Children are born goal-setters – they just call their goals as dreams. Ask any child what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll see the beginnings of a goal-setting exercise! We need to encourage and develop the belief that they can chase their dreams and that it will happen if they work for it.
Teach your children about why we need to set goals and how to actually do it. Get interested in what interests them and guide them to set their own goals to achieve. We must make goal-setting a habit for children – just like brushing their teeth. So we must emphasize the process of goal setting more than just the achievement of the goal itself. The objective behind goal setting for kids is to get them started in the life-long state of mind for thinking, planning and taking action to achieve results.
Tips to help children to set goals
Define the Goal
Come up with a few broad categories for goals — such as personal goals, friendship goals, relationship goals, and academic goals — and let children fill in the specifics. Brainstorm with your children and find out what’s important to them and what they want to achieve. Ask your children to choose one goal to focus on for the goal-setting activity. Let them pick the goal so it is a more meaningful lesson. This will help them take ownership of their goals and learn to plan.
Write it down
Put up a chart with the goal steps in a visible place to help remind the children of their goal. Set aside time each day to work on the steps of achieving the goal. Follow up periodically to see how efforts toward the goal are coming along.
Decide the goal timeline
Decide a target date for completion for each goal. This will keep your children focused on achieving the defined goal before the due date. Remember to keep the goal’s date flexible to not stress your children. Help your children work hard on achieving the goal. Encourage them to not give up and keep trying.
Plan to achieve the goal
Help your children break the goal into smaller and specific steps that are measurable. For example, the goal might be to read for 20 minutes a day to improve reading skills. Little goals are the best way to get kids moving toward big goals and when they achieve the little goal – they get inspired to do more.
Identify obstacles that might interfere with achieving the goal and discuss with children on ways to overcome those obstacles. Children get frustrated and discouraged when they are not able to meet the goal. Goals are a long-term commitment and there will be lapses. For example, if your kids are not able to act on a goal on a particular day, it is not a failure, just a lapse. Acknowledge how hard the goal is and how it is not easy to stick. Show them how to get excited about it and start again. You could put up the goal on the wall to remind children. Remember that no big change is ever accomplished perfectly!
Encourage your children for the goal-setting efforts. Even if your child doesn’t get the result she/he hoped for, make sure to praise them for trying. But remember to never use threats and bribes to get them to the goal.