6 Parent Tips on Setting Goals with Your Child
In an age where instant gratification reigns and the virtues of perseverance and steadfastness seem like things of the past, teaching your child the value of setting and achieving goals has become all the more important. While it may seem like a topic for older children, setting goals can actually begin as early as elementary school.
Why start goal setting with your child? There are many benefits to doing so early: it can help teach the value of working hard toward a goal in the future and delaying gratification until getting there. It also teaches children the value of responsibility and time management. With pursuing a goal, children grow in perseverance and develop grit. Lastly, goal setting gives a child greater self-confidence; with every accomplished goal, your child will grow with a sense of accomplishment and have greater confidence in his or her abilities.
Sit down with your child and discuss what kinds of goals he or she wants to accomplish. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something academic; it can be something fun, like learning how to ride a bike! Not sure where to start? Check out the following tips.
1. Choose a goal that is just out of reach
Goals should be attainable, but they should require some effort. This is so that your child can really push himself or herself to meet a new challenge versus just doing what is comfortable. If your child’s goals seem unrealistic, he or she may attempt the goal and then give up early. Help your child reign it in and decide on a goal that’s more achievable. Note: while it would be great for your child to achieve a goal, if he or she is not able to, at the very least, he or she can learn the process of pursuing a goal. All goals aren’t going to be realized, but that is OK!
2. Break it down (the 5Ws)
Here’s where the 5 Ws (and how) come in, which will help break down how your child can achieve goals.
What: What does your child want to do?
How: How will your child do it?
When: When will your child do it?
Where: Where will your child do it?
Who: Who are the people that can help?
Why: Why is this goal important for your child?
Here’s an example of setting a goal:
What: Improve in a reading level
How: Get a reading list from school and try to read all the books on it by the end of summer
When: Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 2:00 PM-2:30 PM, read an accelerated book for 30 minutes
Where: At the library
Who: Need parents to drive to the library
Why: Because I want to be able to read above grade level
Breaking down the goal will help make the goal more manageable. Teaching your child how to chunk the goal into more achievable steps is an important skill so that, in the future, large projects, or even loftier goals, won’t seem so out of reach.
3. Let your child own it
After you have settled on a goal and have helped your child break it down, aid your child in setting up checkpoints to review progress. Perhaps your child can set up a visual board that displays where he or she is in the process, or he or she can make a board that just reminds him or her of the goals that have been set.
4. Show support and role model for your child
While your child is the main driver of accomplishing a goal, indicate your support. Offer to give advice or guidance as he or she attempts to carry out goals. Sometimes, children need to see the process modeled for them. You can show your child how you would break down a bigger project like reorganizing your garage or even training for a 10K run. Your support and help can encourage your child to persevere with his or her goals.
5. Reward accomplishments and offer encouragement
Encourage your child with statements that affirm effort and perseverance. Offer rewards along the way to encourage your child as he or she struggles with something difficult. Once your child actually accomplishes the goal, make that time special and memorable. Go out for dinner, or go out for dessert. This helps your child savor a sense of accomplishment and encourages him or her to tackle the next goal.
6. Reflect and revise
Whether or not your child has accomplished the goal, have a time for him or her to reflect on what went well and what didn't go well. Help your child honestly evaluate himself or herself and learn from the process of pursuing a goal, even if he or she didn’t succeed. As your child processes this, tell him or her that not all endeavors succeed, and encourage him or her by saying that we all can grow from learning from our mistakes. Teach your child not to let initial failures deter him or her.
Ready to start goal setting? Here are some examples of goals that you can work on with your child:
- Memorizing the multiplication table
- Advancing in a reading level
- Learning how to ride a bike
- Learning how to get organized
- Learning how to play an instrument
- Learning a new language
- Running a 5K