Goal Setting for Kids, a Beginner’s Guide for All Parents

Picture this: You sit down, do some retrospection on the duties and responsibilities you have, make a list of goals that, if achieved, will help you progress, and then fast forward to a week later where you have only done the bare minimum. Sounds familiar? We thought so. For those of you who felt like this was not a situation that you would be in, congratulations on acing at this life skill. But most of us have almost always had trouble sticking to our goals and achieving all of them in the timeframe decided by us. Now imagine, if this is so hard for us adults to do, what about our children? It sure can be very difficult and frustrating for both a parent and a child. However, by taking the time to understand how a child’s mind works and introducing goal-setting activities to your child, you can not only teach them this skill but also make them a pro at it!

As you read ahead, we will go deeper into the concept of the goal-setting process, how it works for children and how you can incorporate this into your child’s life without making them feel overwhelmed. We will also have a fun goal-setting worksheet and a printable pdf goal-setting worksheet available up ahead that you can use to introduce this concept to your child without having to see a frowny face! But let us now dive into the details of this concept and address some important questions associated with it.

Goal setting for children. Using goal setting worksheets

Why Is Goal Setting Important For Children And Students?

While it may seem very pointless to go so deep into this amidst a pandemic, the fact of the matter is, teaching your child goal-setting now is even more important. 

What you have to understand is that nobody has been exposed to live with a pandemic that has changed how everyone works and socially interacts. We are getting accustomed to this new life and are finding it hard. Imagine how it must be for our children. We don’t even know how this isolation may have affected our child’s social skills. However, not all is lost. It is still very much possible for your and your child to indulge in some activities that can indeed turn the table around. One of which Is setting up goals.

But pandemic or not pandemic, goal setting is known to help children experience early wins, which help them develop belief in themselves. Through this, their concept of self-belief and self-confidence can be transformed. Some of the ways goal setting can help your child are:

  • A. Shows your child how to plan for success.
  • B. Better self-image.
  • C. Help your child understand their strengths and weaknesses better.
  • D. This will result in great decision-making skills over time.
  • E. Will pave their way towards having great leadership skills in the future.
  • F. Encouraging self-learning and prioritization.
  • G. Separates practical planning from wishful thinking.

What Do I Keep In Mind While Setting Goals For My Child?

The first and foremost part of understanding goal setting is to accept that this is a time taking process. It is all about trial and error initially when you are trying to understand your child’s patterns, strengths, and weaknesses. So, before you embark upon this journey, you may want to take some time to build up your patience since it will be one of the biggest necessities while you take on this project. However, these tips will help you approach this and find the ideal way to make this work for your child.

1. Take Time To Understand Your Child’s Pattern.

You never know, but your child may have already set up his or her goal-setting techniques. Maybe they have not shared it with you before, but it is always good to keep an eye for patterns or plans that your child may already have in place. You wouldn’t want to come in and disrupt that style with something completely different. If anything, use this pattern or plan and modify it with your guidance and tips so it can turn into a guaranteed success. If you can match your ideas to your child’s goal-setting strategies, chances are your child won’t look at this as a troublesome task. 

Your child may have half of a strategy in place. During such situations using this fun, the goal-setting worksheet can help give your child some more direction. 

My goal setting worksheet

Even something simple as sitting down and discussing what kind of steps he or she can take to better improve their goal-setting process can help encourage your child to work towards a fuller or complete plan when it comes to goal setting. More than anything, ask your child about their goals. Take time out to let them lead the conversation about what kinds of goals they have. Communication and knowing what goes through your child’s mind is important so you can align your plan of teaching this process with their goals.

2. Small And Steady Always Wins.

One of the biggest mistakes we all make is that we bite off more than we can chew. In the excitement of setting goals, we forget to be practical and decided to turn into a superhero. While the sentiment is great and comes from a good place, you do not want to set yourself up for failure the moment you begin, do you? This is why teaching your child to create small and practical goals is the first and foremost step to make this process work. When your child notices that their small tasks are getting done, this will result in a high dose of encouragement. The self-confidence in them will rise since they see the results of their goal setting and how well it seems to be working for them. This will, with time, give them the knowledge and training to slowly take up tasks that are bigger both in size and number. You will soon witness an awesome goal-setting planner before you!

3. Do Not Meddle

While every parent has only the best intentions for their kids, being too intrusive, invasive, or meddlesome can result in your child feeling confused, dependent, or worse, discouraged to want to set goals. Let your child take the lead! It is different if your child seems lost and is looking up to you for advice, but if your child seems to have a couple of goals set already, encourage them.  To start with, understand what plans they have in mind, help them make practical and achievable steps to attain the goal, and finally, this is the most important part, please, oh please, DO NOT NAG OR GET UPSET AT THEM. Your approval means the world to your child, and doesn’t be fooled, and kids pick up on negative emotions pretty quick. You don’t want them feeling like their goals are causing your anger or discomfort. This may discourage them from creating goals, or worse, sharing their goals with you. To avoid this, whenever you feel the urge to nag or feel upset, excuse yourself to take a moment to calm down while ensuring that your child does not sense that you are doing this out of anger. 

4. Keep A Check And Stay Alert.

While your child works his or her way towards becoming the ultimate goal-setting planner, Mommy or Daddy needs to always make sure that they keep a steady check on progress. Your child may express their desire towards setting a goal but maybe forget about it or not pursue it. Being a ray of encouragement for your child is very crucial during such times. The best way to help encourage your kids is to show how excited you are about their goals. You can then sit down and help them create a practical plan. 

If your child has already done their job of creating a plan or has started pursuing a plan made by the both of you, make sure to keep checking in with them from time to time to ensure that they are making progress. Some children might be stuck or demotivated and not moving forward. To avoid a period of stagnancy, keeping a regular check on your child’s progress can help.

5. Set An Example

Just like life imitates art, children imitate a lot of traits that are shown by their parents. Be the example of what you want your child to do. When they see you indulging in leadership and goal setting, your child will automatically want to imitate this and incorporate it into their lives. You can also involve them as you create your goal-setting curriculum. Ask their opinion on how they think you could achieve your goals. This will instill in them the fact that their thoughts and opinions matter too and are important enough to be considered in an adult’s life. As a bonus, you never know, they might end up giving you some interesting and fun ways to achieve your goal. Some of which you may have not even thought of. To make this interesting, use the following family goal-setting worksheet. By indulging in solo and family goal planning, your child will not only learn how to work with himself/herself but also with others.

Goal execution plan

6. Be Honest

It is one thing to encourage your child to pursue to goal, but it is very different if the goal is impractical. Let your child know when they are going down a road that will lead to them feeling disappointed. Ensure you are gentle but honest about how things work. Children are innocent and will end up underestimating the actual amount of hard work that goes into a goal. However, they have you to help them stay in check and plan more realistically. In the long run, this will help them understand how setting learning goals works and how to make achievable goals.

7. Take Time To Compliment Your Child.

Taking up big responsibilities such as this is worth an applaud. Your approval and compliments can mean the world to your child. Take time to let them know that you are aware of all the hard work they are putting in and that you are proud to have him/her as your child. Compliments can be the biggest source of strength for your child that will make them want to aim for bigger and better goals with time. Praising your kids can never go wrong. Good work must always be appreciated.

Father and son

How Do I Set Goals For My Child?

Now that we have covered what to keep in mind while setting goals for your child, it is now time to indulge in exercises you can use to help set goals for your child.

1. Remember The Term Kiss? Well, Do That.

Well, no, we are not talking about a peck on the cheek. Behind this term lies one of life’s best advice.

K- Keep, I- it, S-simple, S-silly. By keeping things simple for your child, you will be implying that goal setting is not something to be afraid of, but something that is very much a part of everyone’s lives and is very normal. To make you understand how simple this can be, you can refer to the chart below.

Simple goal setting worksheet

2. Use The Five-Step Plan To Achieve Goals.

In the five-step plan of achieving goals, you are breaking down the process into small and simple ways that can help give your child the clarity and pathway they seek. 

Step 1:

Write down your goal

You won’t believe the power of writing or maintaining a daily goal-setting journal. When you start taking out the time to write down your pathways, it helps your brain understand what patterns and pathways you have chosen to take in the past to help plan the future. You will notice, after a few journaling sessions, your brain will work towards writing more success-oriented tasks. Tasks that are practical and achievable. What’s more, is that your planning will be a lot more realistic with time, and you will be setting yourself up for success sooner than later.

Step 2:

Make your goals specific

So you have made a goal, great! But what is your goal? Let us take an example here.

Let us assume that your child’s goal is, I want to improve my grades. Now what we have here is a great goal. However, it is quite generic. This also means that your child is somewhere not giving themselves appreciation for the subjects that they are already doing well at. When your child creates such general goals, ask them to go deeper. In this case, instead of the goal being ‘, I want to improve my grades,’ ask your child to first ask themselves this ‘What subjects are causing my grades to drop?, Which subjects are my strengths? Which subjects are my weakness?’ You can be sure that when these answers get answered, your child will have a whole new and more practical perspective of what their goals should be. When the question turns from ‘I want to improve my grades’ to ‘I want to find a way to increase my score in Math,’ you are now presented with a specific goal.

Step 3:

Weigh the pros and cons.

This is where your involvement as a parent comes in. Children often underestimate their goals and don’t think through them completely. Have a list of pros and cons made after you think of a goal. Only if it is sustainable, then encourage your child to go ahead and pursue it, or else as mentioned earlier, you will be setting yourself up for failure. 

Step 4:

Create small steps and define them

Now that your goal is in place, the planning steps begin. Asking yourself questions such as who can help me through these goals, what do I need to do, and when do I need to do a certain step can help. 

Start your day 1 of the plan with simple, achievable activities; when you achieve this, your child will be encouraged to then take more steps. But again, all of this must be done at a slow and steady pace, or else your child may get overwhelmed or stressed with pressure.

Step 5:

Keep check of the progress made

Take a few minutes every day to have a 5-minute conversation with your child to address their goal-setting questions and monitor the progress made. If they have achieved their goal planning for the day, make sure you compliment and award them with something. If not, be their motivation and let them know that it is human to make errors. But what matters is that you then help your child modify their plan, so it is a sure shot success the next day. When you check in daily on your child, they will eventually start checking in with themselves and learn that modification is part of the goal-setting process. If a parent does not check often, they may grow up to be quite rigid and fixed on a plan, even if it makes them feel overwhelmed. By doing the opposite, your child will grow to become a flexible planner that will create realistic and achievable plans.

Is Family Goal Setting Important?

Yes! Family goal setting is perhaps one of the best things you can do to help teach your child how to get along with others. Family is your child’s first friend and the most important one. By setting up goals together as a family, your child will be exposed to not only making goals for himself or herself but also how to make goals as a family. This can prove to become an excellent bonding experience with family, provided everyone is given breathing space and is encouraged to share their opinions too. You can use the following goal-setting pdf to help.

Smart worksheets

Setting Goals For Student Achievement

The goal-setting exercise on top is an excellent asset for teachers to have. It includes the SMART technique towards goal setting. What is the SMART technique, you ask? Let us tell you.

To start, let us first understand what the SMART technique stands for.

S-Specific, M-measurable, A-Attainable, R-Realistic and relevant,  T-Time

This exercise is on similar lines with the five-step plan for teaching goal setting to kids. The only difference is the fact that these goals will be educational. 

With every point of the term SMART, teachers should keep in mind the following:

Specific

As mentioned in the example earlier. Encourage your students to create clear and precise goals. If it is for grades, instead of making generic statements such as I want better grades, nudge them to use these statements instead:

I want an A in all my exams from now on

I want my improvement to increase by one grade.

I want to improve my Math grades by working on statistics

By clearly defining what you want, you will pave a clear pathway to make specific goals.

Measurable

Ensuring that your student’s goal is measurable so that both you and your student can keep tabs. By maintaining a record of pattern with grades or GPA, your student can set out to plan based on their previous grades and current grades, which will eventually lead them towards making practical and clear plans on how to achieve their future grade. 

Attainable

Do not bite off more than you can chew! Said a wise person once an upon a time. Encourage your students to follow this while they set out to plan their goals. Students may tend to create unrealistic goals due to pressure or a lack of understanding of what goes into achieving a goal. To avoid this, you can try to encourage your students to set a weekly goal and share it with you while you help them figure out how achievable it is. If it is done well, take the time to appreciate your student. If not, take the time to help your student create a more sustainable goal to avoid any chances of failure. Students tend to take failure to heart, which is why the goals that are set must be attainable. You wouldn’t want a student to give up altogether because of an unrealistic goal.

Realistic And Relevant

At the end of the day, your student’s goal should be something that can help them with their grades. If a student seems to be making great goals but not concerning educational achievement, this defeats the whole purpose. Of course, some goals may be personal growth-related that are equally important, but ensuring that the balancing is done well between personal and professional growth is crucial.

Time

A lot of times, students create unrealistic timelines to achieve goals. While this comes with a pure heart full of conviction, it can also lead a pure heart to experience the bitter taste of failure that can demotivate your student quite badly. Encourage your student to create achievable goals. You can help them do by explaining to them the importance of planning the correct timeline. Encourage your students to create timelines relevant towards the end of a month or term instead of the end of the day or week. 

You can use all of the worksheets suggested earlier for parents to do with their kids. While the goal is different in the case of families, the template can be used to indulge in the same goal-setting activity with your students. 

Teaching Goal Setting To Elementary Students

Elementary students have a lot more energy and are very easily influenced. This age is perfect for instilling into them the importance of goal setting and how to make it a part of their lives. You can refer to some of the goal-setting worksheets for students that we have attached. However, you can put on your creative hat, too and come up with some fun games. While teaching elementary students goal setting, keep the following in mind:

1. Give Them A Challenge.

Do not underestimate the brilliance of a child. You never know what they are capable of until you let them perform in front of you. Mix and match games or exercises that can prove to be a challenge for them. By doing so, you will be prepping them up for the future, plus you will get the hang of what kind of goal-setting exercises could go well with a particular student. Start with smaller challenges and then slowly move towards bigger ones.

2. Include Interactive Activities

Coming up with exercises that promote social interaction would help in the long run with social skills for your student.  This also promotes collaboration and encourages a child to learn how to share, co-operate and work in a team. 

3. Get Them To Think

Asking students questions or giving them tasks to encourage critical thinking makes a child put their thinking cap on. The more they think, the more they are shaping their brain to go deeper and look at a variety of solutions. Very often, students have a very limited number of questions or situations that they can be exposed to. Parents and teachers, too, are always afraid of involving kids in any form of adulting due to the fear that it may be too much exposure or is simply not ethical. 

The truth of the matter is that the more you shield or dismiss them, the more a child feels like their opinions simply don’t matter. Take time to talk to your students. Ask them questions on day-to-day life, ask their opinions or advice on certain situations and push them and encourage them to always have their thinking cap on.

4. Encourage Them To Indulge In One Goal-Setting Practice Every Day.

Goal setting can only be mastered with practice, trial and error. Encourage your students to take 15 minutes of their day reflecting and, if necessary, modifying the goals they have set if necessary. By doing this, they will themselves be monitoring the progress, understanding what their limits are, retrospect on what they did or did not do towards achieving their goals, and then attempt to try again. It is always good to have one or two things as a routine to help improve goal-setting skills.

Here Are Some Important Goals You Can Encourage Your Kids To Do Work Towards Today!

1. Safety

Teach your child the importance of saying no. Teach them to trust their gut and get out of situations that seem uncomfortable. You can set goals with your child by enacting situations and asking your child for a response. Bullies or even strangers, for that matter, do not approach confident children. The moment a child stands up and shows that they are aware of what is going on, your child will be left alone. You can work towards this goal by taking some time every day and encouraging your child to say no to one thing a day. 

2. Reading

A lot of times, a child’s reading span can end up being cut short because they get bored. Teaching them that it is important to finish what they have started is a great way to instill responsibility. Encourage your child to at least finish one chapter per day or in a week. Finishing a book is a huge milestone for a child, so gentle nudges daily can go a long way. Keep these tips in mind when you plan a goal-setting strategy.

3. Saving Every Penny Counts

There is no time now to teach your children how to save up and how to spend wisely. Encourage your child to find ways to save a penny or make a penny every day through home chores or for a task well done. As part of goal setting, you can encourage your child to collect money daily, make a note of it in a journal and work towards a goal. 

You can do this by deciding on how much you want to save. For example, I will collect 10$ by the end of 6 months. Then slowly and steadily help your child get to that amount. The happiness they will feel when their goal is complete will be worth seeing.

4. Eating Well

Create a goal of ensuring that good food goes into your child’s body in a week. Sit with them, explain the importance of putting good food into their system. There are plenty of cartoons and books to promote healthy eating in kids available online. You can then ask them to come up with a goal by themselves on how they will ensure good fruits and veggies go into their system. 

Once they do so, sit down and modify it to get better with every passing week. This will ensure that as your child grows, they will make healthy eating a part of their lifestyle and not feel like it is a drag.

5. Learning New Words

Encourage your kids to make a dictionary with their friends. Create a goal with your child to learn at least one new word every day or every two days. By doing this, your child’s vocabulary will increase drastically. Along with this, they will get to learn more and more about literature and new things that exist. Since a dictionary has words associated with planets, physics, chemistry, biology, math, literature, and so much more, your child will get exposed to a bit of everything from a young age. This will encourage them to ask questions and eventually learn more and more with time.

6. Regularly Finishing Homework

Instilling this quality goes a long way. Even in films, especially family-related, there is always one scene where a parent is asking their kids if they finished their homework. This is because creating this as a habit instills discipline and respect for education. Plus, it helps in creating a routine. Ensure that your child gets rewarded in some way when they do this regularly and religiously. Also, take time once in a while to appreciate all the hard work that they are putting in. A compliment can help in a lot of ways.

7. Practicing Gratitude

This is perhaps one of the most important skills you must teach your child through goal setting. The reason being, being grateful brings out compassion, kindness, and patience in a child. As your child grows, they will be exposed to a lot of situations filled with hardships. They will make new friends, lose some, deal with a workplace full of pressure, have college assignments, and so much more. But if the practice of gratitude is instilled in your child from a young age, as they grow, no matter what, they will take the time to be grateful for something. You can set goals for the week by asking your child to fix one time every day to write down 3 things that they are grateful for. You can mix this up by making this a family goal where once a week, the entire family gathers to talk about 3 things that each one of them is grateful for. 

8. Reflection On Situations And Re-Enacting Them

A lot of times, we react to situations in ways that are not favorable. It leaves us with guilt or worry. Encourage your child to take some time now and then to talk or reflect on such situations. Ask your child to think about a situation, replay it in their mind and then ask themselves the following questions:

Could I have reacted better?

Could I have used a different plan of action?

Did it hurt me?

Did I hurt someone else?

After this, ask them to take time to make a favorable plan of action for the future if they were to go through the same thing all over again. If, due to any reason, their actions hurt someone, ask them to apologize and make amends.

9. Making Time For Family And Friends

There will come a time when professional life will get the best of every human being. However, family and friends are two things that will last. You may switch jobs, but family and friends are forever. Encourage your child to set goals every week that include family activities of bonding, sleepovers at a friend’s place, or a playdate. Additionally, Set goals with your child to take the time out to appreciate their loved ones. They could write letters, give a hug or even verbally express this, but the goal should be to enrich existing and future meaningful relationships.

10. Cleanliness

This is a life-changing skill if done correctly. Teaching your child to keep themselves and their surroundings clean can help greatly with their well-being over the years. Set goals with your child towards planning regular room, wardrobe, backpack, dishes, and home clean-ups. You can even do this as a family goal once in a while. This works best when a schedule is made, and all family members are involved in the cleaning bit of things.

There is not enough emphasis that can be given on how important this life skill is. By setting up and teaching your child the goal-setting process from childhood, by the time your child reaches the crucial point of adulting, it may not come across as that overwhelming due to the years of training that they have gotten.

All of this will be considered as a part of life and come easy to your child. One thing is for sure, as the adult, they will realize why the journey of goal setting was so important and why you patiently kept pushing them to keep learning. That day, you won’t just be a proud parent, but you will also have a child who would be so proud to have had you as a parent. 

Read and find out How Emotional Intelligence Affects Leadership Skills in Your Kids and Understanding Social-Emotional Intelligence and How to Strengthen This Skill in Your Child

Yulia

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