If you were to ask someone, perhaps even yourself, if you have goals then the immediate answer would likely be a resounding “yes”. But what does it mean to have a goal?
For most of us, our goals are nothing more than an elaborate wish or fantasy. For some others, our goals have been clearly stated and we are working towards working to achieving them. Regardless of which group you fall into, it’s important to remember that teaching our children to be effective goal setters could be instrumental in their success during the course of their lives.
Whatever the age of your child, it’s never too early to start teaching them about setting goals. But before you dive into lengthy lectures about goal setting, let’s review some of the basics of what defines a real goal. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll stick with the S.M.A.R.T. method for what defines a goal.
S – Specific. In order to be considered a legitimate goal, then what you want to achieve must be specified clearly. For small children it helps to draw a picture, or some visual representation of what the goal is that they want to achieve. For older children, consider writing out the goal together and posting it in an obvious place so that they have a constant reminder.
M – Measurable. As you start in the direction of your desired goal, then you must be able to mark your progress in some fashion. When deciding how you will measure progress towards meeting a goal with small children, use daily reward stickers to signal them moving closer towards their goal. For older children, spend a few minutes each day discussing their goal, and writing down some of the things they did in order to help them to get closer to it.
A – Attainable. In order for it to be a true goal it must have the ability to be attained. This can be especially hard to explain to children, who often have outlandish wishes or desires for the things that they want. Discuss with them the need to set a reasonable goal, and even encourage them to start off with something small and work their way to something larger later on.
R – Relevant. Goals must always be relevant to the situation or circumstances in order to keep them within the possibility of being reached. When dealing with children and goal setting, it’s important to differentiate been possibility and impossibility. If you find that your child’s goal is to get a pony, yet you live in an apartment complex, then the relevance of that goal isn’t justified. Encourage them to be realistic in their goal setting choices.
T – Time-bound. True goals are time bound with a defining starting and ending point. When you’re working with your children to set goals, try to keep the time limits within reason. For young children, it’s best to start with a few days to a week. As your child gets older, extend the time-span of their goals to reach farther and farther into the future. This will become good practice for them as they reach closer to adulthood.
It’s important to keep in mind that as your child gets better and better at setting and achieve their goals, it’s necessary to make the goals a bit harder the next time. By starting off small and achieving little goals, then they will ultimately build the confidence necessary in order to reach the larger ones.
Here are some suggestions to make goal setting and reaching part of your every day life:
Make it a family event. Write down your own goals and post them near your child’s then make sure to reward yourself at the same time you reward them for their achievements.
Discuss it over dinner. Make time to go around the dinner table to talk about your individual goals and how you are each progressing towards them. This is excellent family conversation, and also helps to connect members of the family as a support team as you work toward your goals together.
Have a party. When one or more members of your family reach their goals, make it an excuse to celebrate. Order take-out, go to a movie together, or maybe just rent a movie and have popcorn. However you choose to celebrate, this is an excellent opportunity to not only reward the success of reaching the goal, but also bring you closer as a family.
By working with our children to teach them the importance of setting and reaching our goals, we can hopefully raise a new generation of goal oriented people who are successful in their lives.