Goal Setting Tips: Preparing for the New Year!

a mom kneeling down to her daughter and reassuring her

by Karen Gibson

As a parent coach, I’ve witnessed parents frustrated as they witness their child fall behind in reaching a goal.  Some children start out excited when planning their specific goal to reach.  Yet, the main reason children fail to achieve their goals is they fail to follow through with specific action steps.  Perhaps they lost motivation or experience overwhelm.  Goals may seem unreachable if children do not learn proper success strategies to set appropriate goals with manageable steps.  Without accountability and the knowledge needed for goal setting, many children end up frustrated causing themselves as well as their parents extreme disappointment.

Every parent dreams of raising kids who are goal-oriented, disciplined and accountable.  One way to ensure an “I can do this” attitude is to help your child learn to set goals and meet them, one baby step at a time.  Here are five tips to help children master goal setting.

a dad giving a high five to his son
Encouraging children and leading by example instills accountability.

Tip 1:  Let Them Choose

Many parents tend to choose their children’s goals.  They convince their kids that academics should be a top priority.  Others train their kids to focus on a particular sport in the hopes of future scholarships.  It’s a natural tendency to live vicariously through our children.  This does not end well as many children resent being forced to pursue goals that lack personal passion.

If you start nagging and feeling angry that your child isn’t working hard enough to reach a goal you set for them, chances are it’s actually your personal goal instead of their own goal.  Engage in a healthy discussion so children feel empowered to choose their own goal.  

Tip 2:  Start Small

Little goals are the best way to teach goal setting.  Perhaps they want to complete a craft project or improve learning a specific sport.  Creating a schedule and planning when to complete certain steps or choose time frames where practicing their soccer skills or working on a book report will teach children how to create routines and learn accountability by checking off their weekly “To-Do List.”

Tip 3:  Show Them How

Be their cheerleader and support system without stepping in too much.  Role model these steps so they can see goal setting steps in action.  The most important step is to write down specific goals, time frames where goals are broken down into easy steps to manage.  Practice writing weekly plans, which includes daily plans, so children know how to keep track of their progress.  It is important not to hover over them so they feel that their parents trust them to follow through and practice being accountable.

Tip 4:  Provide a Reality Check

Some steps may be harder than others, and some children tend to overestimate the time and energy required to complete their daily and weekly tasks.  Encourage weekly discussions where your child can review what they feel proud of accomplishing; what areas they feel need improvement and specific ways to improve the next week’s plans.  The most challenging aspect of doing a reality check is to help children feel supported, not judged or lectured.

Tip 5:  Praise Efforts

Make the time to celebrate little wins.  When your child feels disappointed or overwhelmed, your role as a parent is to explain how some goals take time to achieve and there is no such thing as failure.  Turn every mistake or what is perceived as a failure as an opportunity to grow and build resilience.  Every successful champion has overcome endless defeats and struggles.  When children understand that failing never defines their worth, but is simply an incredible learning opportunity, your child will develop a strong mindset.  Parents who prevent their children from failing rob them from learning how to accept valuable learning lessons that prepare them for future life’s struggles.  Struggles can be seen as horrible catastrophes or brilliant learning opportunities.

a Weekly Planner app on an iPad
Weekly planners can help children keep track of their goals and progress.

Here are some small goals children can work towards achieving:

  • Saving money towards buying a special toy/game
  • Memorizing a song or reading a short book
  • Cleaning their room
  • Completing a book report or project for school
  • Learning how to ride a bike, skateboard or tie their shoes

Here are some slightly bigger goals as children grow older:

  • Reading an entire chapter book 
  • Saving money for a trip or special occasion
  • Planning a birthday party or a sleepover
  • Volunteering 3 to 6 hours a month to a dog shelter, senior center or homeless shelter
  • Improving their grade for a particular subject

Here are some reminders to help children stay on task and learn how to be accountable.

  • Reassess daily progress and celebrate the baby steps accomplished.
  • Help children learn that setbacks are natural and plan ways to move forward.
  • Creating a visual, a chart can be an excellent way to see progress.  Use gold stars or special markers to check off steps that are completed.
  • Set a good example so children can see how parents carry out goal-setting steps.
  • Encourage a family goal where family members participate in planning and carrying out the steps for an exciting project.  
a young girl calculating how much money she's saved
Children can work toward saving money for toys, games, and special occasions.

Depending on a child’s communication style, love language and emotional maturity, goal-setting will require a different communication strategy.  If children do not feel they are heard and understood, teaching them how goal-setting works may result in conflicts.  It’s vital to use the right words to avoid arguments and increase cooperation.  Discovering primary communication styles, practicing the right love language and being aware of a child’s emotional maturity will help guide parents in having healthier family interactions.

As a parent coach, I’ve discovered the importance of meeting a child where they are at instead of expecting children to meet their parents’ expectations.  Sometimes modifying a goal mid-way is necessary to avoid parents feeling disappointed in witnessing their children failing to meet their goals.  Learning how to step away emotionally is a challenge, especially when grades may fall, failures experienced and expectations are not met.  Goal-setting can cause unnecessary stress if a healthy perspective is not maintained.

Please email Karen@lettingGowithAloha.com  if you’re interested in receiving my complimentary EQ vs IQ e-book.

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