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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


Goal Setting for Young Children - Teaching Children the Basics of Goal Setting

By Andrew Loh

Teaching setting goals to children could be a complicated exercise because of several steps involved in the process. As a parent, you may need to explain and describe how different phases of goal setting work and in what manner children could use these steps to attain success levels that they want to achieve. Goal setting program consists of a series of steps and ways and children should follow them before reaching the goalpost. Here are seven simple steps to teach and train children how to set goals and achieve them.

Let your children know the basic definition of goal

Children are known to work on their own goals even though they do it unintentionally. You can define and explain goals in a simple and easygoing manner. Try to link the term goals to areas of activities that children are usually familiar with like fire fighting, catching thieves, playing hickey and football. Children usually fantasize while playing games or doing their work. Although fantasizing is a form of dreaming, it is not focused nor is it realistic because one may not be able to relate it to the realm of achieving goals. However, consistent practice and workout might help children crystallize fantasies and convert them into meaningful goals.

For example, you may wish to say the following:

  • “A goal is your dartboard upon which you can shoot your darts.”

  • “A player who plays hockey keeps trying to score a goal and he plays for a win.”

  • “In life, you can try to achieve many useful things just like in sports. It is almost shooting for a goal in your life. You try to achieve something that enriches your life.”

  • “Many people do work and do something to get what they want in life. It is almost similar to winning a game of football.”

  • “Similarly, you may wish to study hard to achieve your goal of scoring the best marks in class.”

  • “Planning to work involves developing necessary skills and you will need to work on them. This planning is what you call goal setting.”

  • “Goal setting will help you succeed wherever you go.”

Sharing your goals and objectives

To encourage your children, you may want to sit down with your children and share your own goals, objectives and previous instances of successful goal setting. Share your dreams and aspirations with your children. Let children's goal setting be doable and easy. A typical goal setting system would have the following workable model:

I will (would) +what +when, where

I will is mandatory because all goal-setting programs should start with I, because achieving goals is a personal exercise.

The second part always contains two keywords: what and when.

Here, goal setting is always specific and it stresses on these keywords to suggest the importance of context of goal setting. The main keywords are “what do you want to achieve?” and “when do you want to achieve it?”. Example:

  • “I will clean garden and water all plants by six o' clock in the evening”

  • “I will complete my project work by eight o' clock in the evening”

  • “I will study hard, score good marks and pass out of the class by this yearend”

Working on a dream list

Your children should know that all goals start with a list of dreams. Give them a sheet of paper and ask to write a list of their dreams. Let them list one by one according to their priorities. Also, ask them what they want to improve from their current skills. Let the list be realistic and true to the spirit of goal setting. You should remember that the dreams that your children list should be achievable and children should have necessary skills and knowledge to make goal setting a reality. Another important issue is the period within which children should achieve their goals. Let the dream list contain topics related to school, classroom, studies and tests apart from mentioning some from sports area.

Tailor goal-setting programs to the needs of your children

All children are impatient and they want to taste success as soon as they write down the list. Divide the lost into three categories - short term, medium term and long term. Some of the examples are as follows:

Short term - Writing a test at the weekend, attending a competition on Sunday, with just seven days time to prepare for the competition.

Medium term - Getting good grade for midterm exam that is three months away.

Long term - Getting good grade for final exam that is a year away.

Let your children think and act through the entire process to taste success

The key to goal setting success is the manner in which children think and act, and the way in which they identify their resolutions. Clear and solid goals will help them understand the process in a better manner.

All goals are achieved through climbing one-step at a time. It is like climbing up the staircase slowly and reaching the top floor after some time. Before reaching the top floor, the person who wants to reach the top should write a list of things that needs to done so the process of transition from one-step to the other becomes easier.

Watch, track and observe children's goal progress and suggest improvements

Make charts and visual reminders to track the progress. Similarly, each activity should be written down on a sheet of paper and evaluated at the end of the day so that corrections and improvements could be made to make the process simpler. You can create a bulletin board to write down all completed steps of the goal process.

Reward children after reaching the goalpost

Once the desired success level is reached, you may need to sit down with your children and conduct a brainstorming session to find out weaknesses and lacunae in the entire process. Do not forget to reward your children for their great success. Once they taste and celebrate success, you can suggest them to repeat the exercise and keep doing it throughout their life.

Featured Resource

Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child
By James Taylor, Ph.D

Now available in paperback, Positive Pushing gives parents clear and balanced instruction on how to encourage children just enough to produce a happy, successful, satisfied achiever. Taylor, an experienced achievement consultant, believes that, pushed properly, children will grow into adults ready to tackle life's many challenges.

In building a model of successful achievers, Taylor skewers the self-esteem movement for protecting kids from disappointment and mistakes--the very experiences that build sturdy self-regard. He urges parents to separate their needs from their children's. His marching orders are clear and compelling: guide kids to discover a passion; express love apart from achievement; create a human being, not a "human doing"; use boundaries to construct a safe harbor; and demand accountability.


Featured Resource


Child Development

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