My five year old has been learning about growth mindset at school…And I am loving every bit of it! Listening to my sweet kindergartner talk about all the things he hasn’t learned “yet”, but WILL… has given me the bug for some goal setting! But for some reason, setting goals feels like something only adults do. Why is that?
Children are little sponges that just soak up knowledge everywhere they go! With so much to learn, doesn’t it just make sense that setting goals is a life skill our children ought to learn as soon as they’re able?
Why Setting Goals Matters!
Setting Goals Builds Your Child’s Character
- Responsibility — Only your child has the power to make this goal happen. If he doesn’t get in there and work at it, no one else can bail him out and make his dreams come true.
- Work Ethic — Again, putting in time and effort is the only way to achieve goals.
- Build Confidence — When you achieve your goal through hard work and perseverance; then your self-confidence will soar!
- Self-Control — More often than not, to stay focused on our goal, we have to deny ourselves life’s simple pleasures.
- Discipline — Teach your child that they’ll never get anywhere if they wait for motivation to come! Motivation to keep moving forward is a reward for those who are disciplined and do what it takes to achieve their goal…even when they don’t feel like it!
- Perseverance — Struggles will come and excuses to quit will most definitely creep in. The more practice with goal setting you give your child, the sooner they will learn to persevere through those setbacks.
The Struggle is Real! And It’s Healthy, too!
It’s good for kids to come across a stumbling block. Without opposition, there isn’t growth. Can you imagine how boring life would be if we succeeded at everything we did the first time?!
Here’s an example for ya! My oldest child struggles with doing her spelling homework because she knows the words already. What do we learn here? Without a challenge, the task will become just a mundane part of your child’s routine and eventually, they won’t even see the point in doing it anymore.
**If we learn to continually challenge ourselves, it not only will be exciting when we do reach our goal, but the journey toward our goal will be much more meaningful and even enjoyable.
Let’s Define Goals!
Before we jump into goal setting, let’s quickly touch on the basics. This isn’t anything new…just a quick refresher!
Are you familiar with SMART goals? Here’s a recap below! All goals should be:
A well thought out goal will meet each of these criteria!
When planning goals with your kids, be sure to talk about long term goals as well as short term goals. Keep in mind that several short term goals achieved over time is the recipe for achieving those long term goals.
Consider setting your goals in 90 Day increments. It’s the perfect time frame for those short term goals! 90 days is just long enough to stretch yourself but short enough for you to see growth and achievement. Compare that to our annual New Year’s goals that often fall flat because, let’s face it, a whole year is just too long!
What Kinds of Goals Should Kids Focus On?
This certainly isn’t my idea, but it sure is a good one! Our church youth program has all children 8 years and older regularly setting goals in four different categories. They are:
With your child, decide on a goal or two for each of the four categories above. For the 90 day period only choose one maybe two goals to work on. How many you choose really depends on the goal and the level of effort needed to achieve the goal. I think small wins are important! It helps kids build confidence as they warm up to the idea of goal setting. After all, this is an important life skill we want them to carry into adulthood and throughout the rest of their lives!
Growth in each and every one of these four categories is important and necessary. I’m sure it’s safe to safe to say we all hope our kids will grow up to be well-balanced individuals! Try to alternate categories every one to two 90 day periods to encourage growth in every aspect of their lives.
At what age should you encourage your child to set and work toward goals?
So when should you begin encouraging your child to set goals? The short answer is… as soon as they’re ready to learn something new!! That pretty much means right now!
The key to setting goals for and with your child is to make sure they are age-appropriate. At first, when your child is very young it will feel more like you are setting goals for your child. I.e. potty training or getting them to eat healthier foods as a toddler. As they grow and mature, gradually goal setting will be something they can do completely independently. I won’t assign an age because each child is different and will excel on their own time table.
When your child is able to express their own interests, work with them on planning their goals. Write them down and put them where you’ll both see them often.
The number one best way to introduce kids to setting goals is to incorporate goals into your family routine. Read more on setting family goals below!
What is the Best Way to Teach Your Children About Goal Setting?
Set Family Goals
Children can learn from an early age the process and value of goal setting. An effective way to set the example of goal setting and working toward achieving a goal is to SET FAMILY GOALS. Make a point to create a “goal setting” environment in your home. Decide what your goals are and clearly display them where your family can be reminded of them often. Make an action plan, stick to it, and be sure to set yourself a deadline!
Make a Vision Board or other visual reminder to help family members stay focused.
Remember, each and every family member plays a vital role, so make sure you clearly define what those roles are! Giving everyone a part to play encourages responsibility as well as teamwork!
Show your kids you’re serious about your goals by making them a priority. One way to do this is to intentionally put your daily tasks from your action plan as one of the first things you get done that day. For example, if your goal is daily family prayer, you can plan to meet together in the family room every morning at a set time before everyone heads off to work or school.
Do you hold regular family meetings or Family Fun Night? If so, this is the perfect opportunity to do some training for goal setting! During family meetings you can regularly discuss progress on your goals and make adjustments when necessary. Family meetings are meant to include a family council to address concerns, scheduling conflicts, and goals. It’s also the perfect opportunity to share a spiritual thought followed by a fun activity.
Examples of Family Goals by Category
The purpose of spiritual family goals is to strengthen your relationship with the Savior both individually and as a family. Some examples of spiritual family goals could be as simple as having daily family prayer or daily scripture study.
A fun, intellectual family goal could be to put on your own Science Fair. You could help each other prepare your projects and pick a night to present what you’ve learned! This doesn’t have to just be science. This could be learning about countries around the world or learning about different ancestors’ stories in your family tree. The possibilities are endless!
A social goal could be to invite a family or neighbor over for dinner and game night once a month or to participate in a regular service activity. Emotional intelligence is often overlooked but is a vital part of our emotional well-being. With a bit of practice, you can learn as a family to identify and process your emotions in a productive and healthy way!
A Physical family goal could be as simple as a weekly family hike, bike ride, or even just a walk to the park. Have a regular screen-free week to help encourage creativity and a healthy lifestyle.
Once kids are a little older, they’ll naturally start to set and work toward their own goals because they will have had ample practice with the family.
Some More Examples of Family Goals
Setting goals together as a family is the best way to give your kids practice with working toward goals. Here are some more examples of some family goals you could set!
Save up money for a fun vacation
- See where you can cut back costs
- Do some family fundraisers (I.e. lemonade and bake sale, family car wash, mow lawns, babysit, put your coins in the savings fund)
- Decide on your destination and set a goal for $ saved by a predetermined date.
Make time to have fun together as a family.
- Assign a designated family day or evening each week
- Collect a list of ideas…maybe write them on craft sticks and put them in a jar..so you always have a go-to list of fun activity ideas for family night
- Try some board and card games
Have daily family prayer and scripture study
Have a weekly family fun night
- Assign everyone a duty or task for family fun night. Keep it fun and low stress…kids will look forward to this night!
Plant a garden or fruit tree
Learn to cook together
Take care of our bodies
- This could include eating well, getting enough rest, exercising regularly, etc.
Learn a skill together
Keep the house clean
- Give new life to family chores!
What If Your Child Doesn’t Reach His/Her Goal?
We all fall short sometimes. That’s just part of life! This might sound weird, but it’s healthy for your child to occasionally feel the sting of disappointment. Your job as a parent isn’t to make sure your child succeeds every time! It’s to be their guide and show them how to handle their disappointment and teach them to make adjustments to their plan and TRY AGAIN!
When your child is working hard on a goal, be sure to Encourage the effort, not the result. When they are giving their best, they have every reason to feel proud of themselves! Of course, let them know you’re proud of them, but make sure they know they should feel proud of themselves, too!
There are dozens of encouraging phrases you can say to your kids! I found a great list of 101 encouraging phrases you can use to build them up!
Again, setting and working towards goals as a family is a perfect way to model goal setting. As a family, you won’t always achieve your goals. Having regular family meetings and talking about the progress of your goals on a regular basis helps demonstrate to your children how to reevaluate and reset your goals when necessary. They’ll quickly learn that you don’t give up simply because you missed your deadline. No. Instead, you regroup and try again!
How do we encourage striving for greatness without the use of rewards or bribes?
You might be wondering why I’m suggesting we nix the rewards and bribes. It sounds a little counterintuitive, right? If you want to get kids to do something, you should provide some kind of incentive to help motivate them, right? Wrong! Do you really want your child growing up thinking the only way he’s going to load the dishwasher is if mom pays him $10/month?
So Here’s my thought process…The first example that comes to mind for setting goals associated with rewards is library summer reading programs. We want our children to beat the summer slide and the best way to do that is to encourage them to keep reading throughout the summer. So, if they read so much they can hand in their sheet and earn a few prizes. I am not knocking summer reading programs! My kids love them and they are a fun incentive for a good cause.
Here’s what I’m concerned about…what happens once they’ve reached their goal and maxed out on all the prizes? Does your reluctant reader keep reading? Did they develop a love for reading as you’d hoped? Most likely not. Once the rewards stopped, the reading probably stopped along with it.
You can read more about what to do instead of rewards here!
You want your child to learn that working hard toward a goal will give the internal reward of personal satisfaction, confidence, and personal growth and progress. When you understand the value of reaching your goal, it will motivate you to keep trying and stay focused on your goal. Help your child understand the value behind their goal.
One Last Thought About Goal Setting…
Your child is a unique individual and will bring their own interests to the table. As they grow, their personality, interests, and desires will grow with them! Make sure you run with their interests as you encourage them to develop their talents. Make it fun! Focus on being their cheerleader and encourage their effort. Remembers always that there is no room for negativity.
Never once has the Savior motivated us to be better by first making us feel worse!
As the parent, you are the guide! There’s no need to try to control your child’s every decision. Know that your child is inherently good. If taught true principles, he will strive to obey those principles. Often before setting goals, you’ll need to teach simple truths. For example, before setting physical goals, teach your children about the sanctity of the body. Once they understand that their body is a gift from God, they will have a greater desire to do what is necessary to properly care for their body. That includes feeding it well, getting enough exercise, getting enough rest, brushing their teeth, etc.
Being a parent is a non-stop, never-ending job! Our children will never realize their amazing potential unless we are intentional about their growth and development. Helping your child learn to set and work toward goals just might be the best way to keep your child learning and growing every day!
What Goals Are You Working On?
I would love to hear what goals you and your families are working on. Please share in the comments below! And be sure to share this post so other families can join in! I can’t wait to hear from you!