Teaching Your Child to Set Goals

5 Mins Read 18 Feb 2024

It seemed like the holidays will never end but alas they have and the routines beckon us! The end of the holidays and the beginning of a new school terms marks a meaningful transition point for children and could serve as a great opportunity to get children to reflect and set new goals.

Why should my young child be setting goals?

Focus and purpose do not always come naturally to young ones and goal-setting could really help towards that end. When children start a school term with new goals, it will feel like they are working and progressing towards something and not simply required to go through the motions.

This could also give them a confidence boost over time as they realise there are things they can attain when they set their minds to it and go about it in an organised manner!

Fair enough, but what should they be setting goals about?

Academics may seem like the most obvious thing students should be setting goals about but there are so many other areas of life that goal-setting could benefit. Here are some suggested examples of domains in which children could be setting goals:

  • Behaviour in school
  • Contributions in the home setting
  • Co-curricular activities
  • Friendships

How can you as a parent help your child set goals?

Goal setting can be tricky business for adults, much less for kids. It is important that you guide your child through the process to set meaningful goals.

More than it being about just attaining goals, it should be about learning the value of this exercise and understanding that all big goals can be broken down into small steps

Explain What a Goal Is

Starting with the analogy of a sport like football that your child might play or enjoy watching, explain that in order to score a goal, a player has to bring a ball past other players, aim and kick the ball past the goalpost and similarly if there is anything big they want to do, or something they want to get better at they have to aim for it and work towards it.

find relevant goals

The beginning point for goals  is  a dream or desire.   Talk to your child to find out  what are some of their favourite personal achievements    and what are   some of the things  they are drawn to and dream of doing.   Write down these things  and use  these aspirations   to set goals. 

offer a model for goal setting

Offer your child the language and structure they need to identify and define their goals.  A goal usually looks something like this:

 [TIME], I want to be   [WHAT]    and I will know   I have achieved this goal if [WHAT].  

For example, let's say you have a child who  is musically inclined. They are particularly keen on playing the  guitar and they want to set a goal in this regard. Perhaps they start off by saying they want to be better at playing the guitar by the time the new semester ends. Ask them what it will mean to be better at playing the guitar. Maybe there are  a few of their favourite songs that they want to be able to  play on the guitar. In this case, the goal could look something like this:

By  the end of this semester,   I want to be able to  play the guitar better  and I will know   I have achieved this goal if  I can play these 5 songs on the guitar.   

Or you have a child who wants to set a goal for the home setting and  maybe it has something to do with being more helpful  around the house  and it could look  something  like this. 

For the next month, I want to be more helpful around the house and I will know I have achieved this goal if I have helped to set the table for dinner and clean up after dinner  twice every week. 

discuss how to achieve this goal

When setting goals, it helps to identify three active steps to take towards achieving the goal so as to make consistent progress and to have a clear idea of what it takes to achieve it. In the example of playing the guitar, the three steps could look something like this:

1.  Learn 3 new chords

2.    Practise the guitar for 15 minutes every day.

3. Learn  and practise a new strumming pattern every month 

keep goals realistic

If your child  wants to  make the cut for the competitive swimming team within the next few months but has not started learning to swim yet, then  it might be a bit of a long shot (while not entirely impossible).  Guide your child towards  make realistic goals that are attainable given the available resources and time. It might also be good to mix some very immediate goals (finish reading a higher level book, learn to  bake cookies etc.) with some longer term goals so that your child can taste some success that will spur them on towards the more distant goals. 

Remember the point of the exercise

The feeling of attaining goals is wonderful! But remember that   the end game is more than just that.   It is about teaching your child   that if they want to achieve something they need to keep at it regularly, invest time and effort and go about it in an organised manner.  So  even if your child does not achieve the goal, encourage them and motivate them! 


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