Join our newsletter for new article updates!
Help Your Kids Set Their Own GoalsBy Christine Hennebury
Goal setting and time management are valuable assets in your kids' quest for self-reliance and self-confidence. You can help them learn these skills by starting with a few simple steps.
Start dreaming. Get your kids to sit down with paper, pencils and thinking caps and ask them to consider the things that are most important to them in school, in their personal lives and in their relationships. Have them write down their goals in each of these areas and help them figure out whether those goals are long-term or short term.
Get specific. The next step is to make those goals manageable. The best way to do that is to make sure that their goal statements are very specific and reasonable. Goal statements like “be the best player on the team” are too vague — it would be better to say “improve my scoring average by two points.” There is no way to predict who will be the best player on the team (that's beyond your child's control), but with regular practice, she could improve her skills until she meets her goal of an improved average.
Make sure all of their goals are phrased positively (e.g., “I will read each test question carefully,” not “I will stop making stupid mistakes on tests.”)
Set a time limit and use interim goals. Pick a reasonable time frame for each goal and help your child figure out how to measure his progress. Even short-term goals can't be accomplished all at once, so help your child break down each goal into a series of smaller steps.
If your son has never played guitar but wants to be a rock star by December, you may want to help him scale back a bit. His rock star plans can be long term, and he can start by planning to learn his chords in September, learn two songs in October and November and be able to play in a recital in December. Once those goals are reached, you can help him figure out his next steps toward becoming a rock star.
Be sure to write down all the interim steps so they can be included in the giant list and calendar below.
Address obstacles. Some of your child's goals will have built-in obstacles. Rather than letting your child become defeated by roadblocks, address the obstacles very early in the process.
Use a visual reminder. Have your child make a visual representation of achieving her goals. Perhaps she could make a collage of amazing soccer stars, with her photo in the middle. Or have your rock star son create his future CD cover.
Make a giant list. While your child still has his pencil in hand, help him to make a giant list of all the things he has to do in any given period of time (e.g. steps towards his goals, school projects, family events, friends' birthdays and community activities).
Make a calendar. Help your child to develop a calendar for herself. She can either design it on the computer or draw it on a large piece or paper. Be sure to include at least three months on a single sheet to help with keeping organized in the long term.
Write it all down. Start by filling in previously scheduled activities on the calendar, then schedule time for daily homework, long-term projects and work on various goals.
If specific work is scheduled for a particular day and time (you're not chiseling into stone -- the calendar can be changed if necessary), your child doesn't have to think about it at other times. And maybe you won't need to spend so much time reminding them to practice the guitar or work on that frog project.
Make sure to leave lots of open spaces on the calendar for your kids to goof around, play games and hang out with friends. No point in turning them into junior executives -- it's hard to find nice business clothes in the kids' department!
Dealing with setbacks
Sometimes, it won't be possible for your child to follow her goal plan. Whatever the reason, let her know that setbacks happen and the best way to deal with them is reassess her goals and make a new plan.
Make sure that your child rewards herself for a job well done. Frequent rewards will add to the feeling of accomplishment.
Learning to manage time and set goals may seem like a big task for your kids, but once they get into the habit, it should help reduce family stress and help everyone have more time for fun.
What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! by Beverly Bachel
© Christine Hennebury
Christine Hennebury is a freelance writer and stay-at home mom in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. She is currently working on a series of goal-setting seminars for kids and teenagers that she will begin presenting in schools in 2005. More of her writing can be found at www.mombie.com.