Quick Tips to Help Children Set & Achieve Goals

by Denise Yearian

When children set and achieve personal goals, it can affect the way they view themselves, their academics and their activities, both now and in the future. But for many, goal setting doesn’t just happen. Often it’s an acquired skill that requires the guidance, support and encouragement of a parent or mentor. Following are 10 quick tips to help:

1. Start early

Provide structure for goal setting by having your child save for a special toy, work toward a specific grade in school or master a song on the piano.

2. Get input and ideas

Make sure the goal is child directed. Parents may give input but it needs to be the child’s idea for him to truly embrace it.

3. Write it down

Make sure the goals are clear and sensible. Have your child include why it’s important to him. Hang it in his bedroom, on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror so he can see it. Or get a binder to chart progress and let him decorate the front of it.

4. Formulate steps

Outline specific steps to attaining the goal. Break it down into smaller steps or goals so your child will feel a sense of accomplishment along the way.

5. Reach for resources

Take advantage of books, DVDs, the Internet, lessons and third-party influences to help your child increase his understanding and hone his skills.

6. Overcome obstacles

Consider hurdles and create strategies to overcome them in advance. If children know there will be road bumps along the way, it can ward off discouragement. Remind your child that obstacles are opportunities to strengthen his resolve.

7. Set a date

Write down a time frame for attaining the goal. This will provide a sense of urgency and keep your child on track.

8. Monitor progress

Have your child chart progress he has made with pictures, medals, report cards, etc., and add to his notebook for continued encouragement.

9. Readjust time frame, if necessary

Remind your child that there may be unforeseen circumstances that have kept him from attaining his goal in the allotted time. Encourage him to readjust the time frame and continue on.

10. Be their cheerleader

Provide support and encouragement. Take an interest in his goal, attend his activities and look for other ways to support your child without taking charge of the goal.

11. Be a mentor

Talk about your own personal goals—the trials you faced in trying to achieve them. Demonstrate perseverance and discipline, and continue to set personal goals for yourself.

Goal-setting resources

Goal Setting 101: How to Set and Achieve a Goal! by Gary R. Blair.

Goal Setting for Students by John Bishop.

Making Every Day Count: Daily Readings for Young People on Solving Problem, Setting Goals, and Feeling Good About Yourself by Pamela Espeland and Elizabeth Verdick.

What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens by Beverly K. Bachel.

What Teens Need to Succeed: Proven, Practical Ways to Shape Your Own Future by Peter L. Benson, Pamela Espeland, and Judy Galbraith.

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