My son and I were driving in the car when he reached over and turned off the radio. He took a deep breath and said, “Mom I think I want to be an engineer when I grow up.” I smiled and stated that he could be whatever he wants to be if he sets his mind to it. This conversation sparked the idea of how important it is for parents to not only encourage their children’s passions and dreams but also to set goals or plans to achieve them.
Setting goals is such an important element to raising a well-rounded child. It gives them the skills, know-how and confidence to reach towards something that is important to them. It is also a very useful skill that will most likely carry over into adulthood. Goal setting teaches our children to push themselves and break out of their comfort zones. It also allows them to try new things and devise a plan to accomplish this goal.
Here are a few tips on how to teach your children to set a goal and achieve it:
1) Be Specific
Make sure your child sets a specific goal. For instance, if they set the goal to be a good student, encourage them to get a little more detailed. Having a goal to get straight A’s would be a good example of a specific goal.
2) Short-Term Goals and Long-Term Goals
It is also important to explain the differences and benefits of having both short-term goals and long-term goals.
Examples of short-term goals are: getting a good grade on a test, making a new friend, learning a new hobby, or saving their allowance to buy a small toy.
Examples of long-term goals are: getting perfect attendance all year, saving up for a new bike, performing in a school play, or learning how to play an instrument.
Helping your child to set short-term goals will not only be good practice for planning and achieving their long-term goals, but it will also assist with their self-esteem building and confidence when setting larger goals. Teaching your children to set long-term goals will assist them with focus and motivation to keep moving towards their long-term goal vs instant gratification.
3) Plan On It!
Teaching your children to plan small steps towards their goals, will help them to stay focused and on track. Breaking down goals into smaller steps will also help your child visualize the necessary effort and expected time it will take to achieve their goal.
A fun way to incorporate a plan for their goal is to make a Goal Chart. This is a fun activity that you and your child can do together, and this can also assist in helping your child set an expected timeline for their goal.
Fail Forward is a phrase we don’t use enough. My father always told me that there is no such thing as failure as long as you learned something from your unexpected outcome and didn’t give up. He explained that failure wasn’t a setback, but rather a step forward to achieve eventual success. You need to learn from each supposed “setback” and apply these lessons to your next opportunity.
For example, if your child sets a goal to be on the football team and he doesn’t make the team; encourage him to continue training for tryouts next year or try out for another school activity that interests him. By doing this, you are ensuring your child is not discouraged from trying new things and explain to them that sometimes when we don’t achieve the particular goal in mind, we can either work harder to achieve this goal or in some cases, a new opportunity may present itself. By putting yourself out there and trying new things; new opportunities can arise. The important lesson is to continue learning and moving forward.
5) Be Flexible
As parents, it is important that you help your child realize that although a plan is now in place to achieve their goal, sometimes there will be obstacles or challenges along the way that they may not expect. Let them know that there is more than one way to achieve a goal and when an obstacle presents itself, not to be discouraged, but rather open to the possibility of another way to achieve their goal. Allow your child to think of a new solution or plan if confronted with an obstacle.
It is important that we help our kids and have open communication, but give your child the chance to brainstorm before assisting. This will help with the development of their problem-solving skills and confidence.
6) Praise Them
Let your child know how proud you are of them as they move towards their goal as well as when they accomplish it. Positive-reinforcement and recognition of achievements can go a long way with a child’s growing self-esteem, giving them the confidence to try new things.
Remember it’s not just the achievement of the goal that is important; it’s what your child learns and gains along the way that helps them grow!