We always want our children to become the best version of themselves that they can possibly be. Sometimes that pressure can be a bit much, whether we realize it or not. However, a little bit of gentle guidance and expectations can be a great tool for personal growth. Setting goals for children is not just important but truly crucial to their development. Goal setting is a tool that will propel them to grow throughout their entire life. It’s important to note, however, that goals should be used to encourage personal growth – and any growth is good growth. Before we dive into tips for setting realistic goals, let’s first take a quick look at the inner workings of a well-planned goal.
When it comes to goal setting, think SMART. A good should be:
Specific – Have a clearly defined end result. Example: Read 10 books.
Measurable – You must be able to measure progress. Example: Read 50 pages per week.
Achievable – Make it truly attainable. Example: Read books that are at the appropriate reading level and allow enough time to reasonably complete read them.
Realistic – Keep it within reach and relevant to their life. Example: Choose books that peak their interest, are age appropriate, and allow enough time to reasonably read the books depending upon their length.
Time Sensitive – Like every good race, goals must have a clear finish line. Example: Read 10 books by December 31st.
While the example above may be good for a child that is independent in reading, like a 3rd or 4th grade child, it could certainly be adapted for children much younger. Even pre-school age children can begin learning the basics of goal setting!
Now let’s look at tips for setting realistic goals with children.
When it comes to setting goals, spotting good ideas for goals may naturally come easier to you because of your wisdom and insight. While you certainly can brainstorm goals with your child, make sure that the goal that is chosen is selected by them. By allowing them to choose the goal themselves, they’re more likely to hold themselves accountable and follow through. Even young children can choose their own goal with a little guidance. For example, a toddler can create a chore chart with stickers to help them stay on track when it comes to completing their tasks.
Be sure to discuss whatever goal your child chooses. This gives both of you clear insight into why they’ve selected that goal and what they hope to achieve from it. Having this clearly defined purpose will help fuel them through the long term. It’s natural for momentum to fizzle out when working towards long term goals, but if they have a clear purpose they’re more likely to keep their eye on the end result with a determination to persevere no matter what.
Reaching goals is much like climbing a mountain or taking a cross-country road trip. It isn’t done all in one day. All goals should be divided into smaller, easier to attain milestones. These milestones help the goal seeker clearly define their path. The successful completion of each milestone empowers the goal seeker to continue pushing forward until they reach the next level.
Let’s face it: Obstacles happen. They’re a part of life and no matter how intricately we plan, they’ll always pop up when we least expect them. When it comes to goal setting, try to help your child think of plausible scenarios that are likely to arise throughout the duration of their goal. Nothing is impossible to overcome, and it’s this critical thinking and advanced planning that will really help them build their long term resilience and perseverance skills.
Don’t forget to always put your goal and milestones in writing. This will help create a visual that you can stick to as time goes on. Goal setting can be fun and fulfilling while instilling important values like self-worth and empowerment. The only question left to ask your child is, “What are you going to conquer next?”