The new year is a time to reflect on some of the past year’s experiences and events. It’s also an opportunity to plan and set goals for the upcoming year. Being able to envision, plan, and achieve goals is a crucial skill for future success and overall happiness. In this blog we’ll talk about some tips for setting goals with kids while making it fun and memorable for the whole family!
Confront Unrealistic Goals
When discussing setting goals with kids, they may have some unrealistic goals for themselves at first. If your child is setting goals that are out of reach, help them to see the need for more attainable and age-appropriate variations of that goal. Discussing the difference between long-term and short-term goals will help them better understand the importance of attainability with short term goals as steps to the bigger, long-term goal. Be sure whatever goals they set, that they’re personalized and have meaning for them, even if we offer a little help adjusting them.
Setting “Just-Out-of-Reach” Goals
We all know that feeling of pride and of success after reaching a goal we set for ourselves. It’s this feeling that keeps us motivated to continue setting additional goals that challenge ourselves. However, sometimes children will stay within a certain comfort zone when setting goals to ensure they’ll be successful. One of the best things about goal setting is teaching our children to step outside their comfort zone and challenge themselves. Encourage your kids to set attainable goals that are just out of reach. Teach them to strive for something new, and that feeling of success will mean even more once the goal is achieved, even if it isn’t met in the original timeframe.
Helpful Handout: The Just Right Challenge
Discuss The Purpose of Setting Goals
Sometimes kids tend to generalize when it comes to goal setting. Have your child brainstorm specific goals that are measurable. For example, if your child’s goal is to be a good hockey player, brainstorm how they can measure that. Maybe they can set a personal goal to practice their slapshot for 30 minutes a day, or to work on their skating outside of practice. In addition to setting specific goals, ask your child the purpose of the goal. If you want your child to be motivated, they must be able to understand why their goal is important. When kids see a purpose for what they learn or do, they tend to perform better. It is even more important to have your child find a self-transcendent purpose for their goals, understanding that their goal can also benefit others. You can help your child do so by asking them “How can that help other people?”. If your child can find a greater purpose behind their goals beyond just what it accomplishes for themselves, they are likely to see greater results. Plus, critical thinking and kindness come into play here, which is a major bonus.
Related Reading: The Best Attitude is Gratitude
Break Your Goals Down/Set Checkpoints
As mentioned above, an effective goal should be reasonably within reach. One way to keep your child motivated to reach their goals for an extended period is to take their big, long-term goal and break it down into more manageable, short-term steps.
Start with small, incrementally more challenging goals. You can help your child visualize these smaller goals by creating a “goal pyramid”. At the top of the pyramid, have your child write their big goal, then write the individual steps it would take to achieve it below. Remind your child that they may not reach their long-term goal right away, but completing short-term goals along the steps of their pyramid is how to get to the top. They’re still climbing the “pyramid” to success, and even the smallest of achievements count. Help them see the steps on the pyramid as “checkpoints.” Our handout HERE can get you started.
Think About Obstacles
If you don’t plan for obstacles to come your way along your path to achieving your goals, unexpected challenges or difficulties might derail motivation to continue working towards them. The WOOP acronym below is from the research of psychologist Gabriele Oettingen and can be used to successfully plan for, and reach goals:
- Wish- Think about something you want to achieve.
- Outcome- Visualize how it would look and feel to achieve this goal.
- Obstacles- Picture the things that have held, do hold, or could hold you back from reaching this goal.
- Plan- If and when these obstacles occur, how can you respond?
Remind and Relate
Big Life Journal shares some important steps for what to do and say if your child wants to give up on their goal:
- Remind them of the purpose behind their goal
- Remind how they decided to deal with this obstacle
- Recognize as they climb the steps on their “goal pyramid”
- Give examples of your own struggles at their age
- Focus on how they can continue improving
- Celebrate their effort, determination and persistence
- Teach them positive self-talk
Remember, setting and achieving goals is a process that everyone goes through. Remind your kids that achieving goals takes time and commitment. Make goal setting a family effort. This creates an environment based on cooperation and support and teaches our children that even though we all have our own unique interests, we work together and support one another through life’s challenges obstacles to achieve optimal success.