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How To Set Goals With Children

Updated on December 15, 2012

Setting goals is a skill that does not come naturally to many people. It is one that is cultivated from an early age, not one that people miraculously wake up knowing how to do. So why wait until you are an adult to fine tune this skill? It is to our children’s benefit to develop this skill early on. The more our children are able to identify attainable and realistic goals and learn how to achieve them, the more successful they will become. We often think of putting these practices into place at the start of the year so this is the perfect time to start!

Create your own bubble map.

You do not need a computer to make a bubble map. Simply draw a circle in the center of your page and fill in your large idea. In this case it was Goals for 2012. With each branch you can add a different area of your life that you want to improve on. From each of those circles, think about and add ways that you can achieve this goal.

Choosing Goals Through Questioning

There are many types of goals that one can set. For children the idea is to keep it simple. You want it to be something that they are familiar and comfortable with but want to improve upon. Help them to understand that this is what people do when they want to become better at something or to become better people in general. If they are having difficulty understanding this concept, ask them some questions related to a topic that they are familiar with. For example, if they are interested in basketball, ask them if they think their favorite basketball player just woke up one day being a great and successful player. In most cases they will agree that they had not. Ask them how they think they were able to achieve this success. This will lead to a conversation about practice, hard work, and setting goals. Here’s where your guidance in goal setting comes in. Now you ask them, what is something that you would like to achieve or to become better at in the coming year? Allow them some time to brainstorm ideas. A great way to do this is to use a web or bubble map.

Use a Bubble Map to Generate Ideas

Here is an example of a bubble map or web.  This is a great tool to use for older children to help them brainstorm ideas.
Here is an example of a bubble map or web. This is a great tool to use for older children to help them brainstorm ideas. | Source
Goals on the bathroom mirror.  There are special window crayons and markers that you can use for this.
Goals on the bathroom mirror. There are special window crayons and markers that you can use for this. | Source

Fun for the Whole Family

Even the youngest of children can participate in goal setting. You could make it a family goal so that everyone is participating in the same goal. Display your goal on the family calendar or even on the bathroom mirror so that everyone is reminded of it when they get ready in the morning. Younger children can draw pictures to represent the goals that they want to set. For early emergent writers, these pictures are their words and they can tell you exactly what these pictures represent.

You can decide if you want to work on your family goal for a whole month or maybe just a week. The important part is making the selection together as a family. Keep everyone's ideas in mind and validate them. See how each idea can work together and build on each other. For example if one person wants to work on being respectful to others and someone else wants to work on speaking kindly to each other, discuss how these ideas are related and talk about different actions that would support both of these ideas.

Create an action plan.

Once the goal is decided upon, it is important to put the idea into a clearly stated action plan. Again, you are working with children so you want this to be in simple, kid friendly terms. An easy way to do this is to have them fill in a pre-printed sheet. Something that is similar to the one below. Have them post it somewhere that the will see each day to help them remember what their focus is and how they are going to work on that goal.

Kids' Action Plan

Example of an action plan for kids.
Example of an action plan for kids. | Source

Tools to Help With Goal Setting

Crayola 58-8166 Washable Window Mega Markers-4/Pkg
Crayola 58-8166 Washable Window Mega Markers-4/Pkg
Perfect for writing goals on mirrors or windows.

Review and Revist

Everything that is good in life needs attention and fine tuning. The same is true for your goals. Teach your children that this is not something that you do just once and it happens. Help them to understand that this is something that needs to be reviewed regularly to see what is working and what needs to be changed a bit to make it more achievable and to create the life that they want. Here are some tips to remember as you are working through this goal setting process.

  • Set aside one day each month to revisit the goals. Maybe you want to make this the first Sunday of each month right after dinner. Whatever day you choose is not as important as setting aside the time to meet. The purpose here is to check in with someone and talk about how things are going. Make changes if needed.
  • Adjust your action plans accordingly. If you are still working on the same goal, make adjustments as needed after your meeting. If you are ready to set a new goal, review your original list and choose a new goal to work on. Repeat the process of creating an action plan.
  • Buddy system. Everyone needs a friend. Friends help us to keep on track with our goals. This is why many people go to the gym with a friend. It helps to keep us accountable. Check in a couple one to two times a week with your child to see how they are doing with achieving their goal.

Imagine the wonderful lives that your children will create through goal setting at an early age. You will be teaching them a lifelong skill that will carry them far into the future. Soon these steps will become a natural part of their lives. Happy goal setting to you all!


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    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Glad you enjoyed it Kelley. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub! Full of fun ideas for helping kids!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      No problem Huntgoddess!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks kelleyward. It's great for lots of things, reminders, lists, and they love to see it. I wrote a birthday message to my daughter on the mirror last week and she LOVED it. Have fun with it!

    • Huntgoddess profile image


      9 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks so much for your response, Cardelean. Sorry to take so long to respond back.

      Thanks for the work you are doing with the kids who have been exposed to trauma. I did not realize that you did that.

      God --- or Goddess? --- bless, dear.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub. I really like the writing on the bathroom mirror. I'm gonna try that with my boys tomorrow. Thanks!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks rodelmore, I appreciate your comments. It is an important tool for adults as well as children.

    • rodelmore profile image

      Rod R Elmore 

      9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      “The more our children are able to identify attainable and realistic goals and learn how to achieve them, the more successful they will become.”

      You hit the nail on the head with above statement. Having a tangible goal is the key. Many times we set ambiguous goals and in-turn subconsciously teaches our children to do the same. Making clear and attainable goals can prove to be beneficial and loaded with training opportunities.

      Rod Elmore

      Life Coach

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      I agree mj2991, what we do now with our children is just to our benefit in the future. Thanks for your comments.

    • mj2991 profile image


      9 years ago from Pehawar

      Oh our gains! an amazing article girl.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks alphagirl. I can only imagine! The treasure map sounds like a cool idea. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • alphagirl profile image

      Mae Williams 

      9 years ago from USA

      Excellent hub! I have two middle schoolers and keeping them on track is hard. I am using a my version of a treasure map to help.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Yes the window markers are for the mirrors also.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      Cara-I didn't really take a look at the book selections you've added here on the side. (and, should I assume that the 'window' markers are the ones you've used on your bathroom mirror?). I like the one for teens. By this age, if they have not already been taught the importance of goal setting, it is vital that they understand the concepts before heading out of high school or they will be on the road to ... ?

      Nice selections here.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Yes Prasetio30 children are a treasure. I'm glad that you found the hub inspiring. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments and Happy New Year to you as well.

      Thank you Pamela99 for your kind comments. Any way that we can provide guidance for our children is very helpful.

      I understand and agree completely with you Huntgoddess. Although my husband and I are "nice parents" and had nice parents growing up, neither one of us grew up with this kind of guidance for our long term or short term goals. I grew up in a very codependent family and it was not until I was much older that my mom really started to apply these ideas to her life and set the example for us. Knowing who you are is vital to creating the life that you want. I work with children who have very tough and traumatic lives so I understand the daily struggles of survival that they face. All the more reason for children to be exposed to these ideas at a young age to know that they can make a difference in their own lives, that they can have some control. Thank you so much for your insightful additions to the hub and have a blast with your grandkids and the markers!

    • Huntgoddess profile image


      9 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Glad you agree, cardelean --- about not forcing the goals on the kid.

      Please do be aware that some of the people with no sense of direction did not have nice parents like you and your hubby, and that is perhaps WHY they have no sense of direction.

      They were abused.

      One must have a sense of SELF before one can have a sense of direction. Some have never known that privilege.

      Thanks for your reply.

      Yes, I can hardly wait to get those markers! I'll have more fun than the grandkids :-)

      I really love the bubble map or spider web method. I think that's the native way the brain makes connections. Thanks for that. Some great resources here in this hub.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      9 years ago from Sunny Florida

      This is a terrific hub and I think children need to be taught to set goals starting at a young age also. This is great advice to raise responsible children that have some self-guided direction as they grow older. Rated way up!

    • prasetio30 profile image


      9 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very inspiring hub, especially for the parents. Children is like a treasure. They'll lead the world and as young generation we should give them motivation and full guidance. Thank you very much for writing and share with us. Rated up. Happy New Year!


    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      I agree Nell Rose. We need to train our children's brains to be productive so that it becomes second nature to them as they get older. And it definitely should be fun!

      I'm glad that you found it unique pmccray, that's what I was going for! I too think that visualization is so important for children to learn early on. Thanks for adding to the hub.

      DzyMsLizzy, thanks for passing it along to your daughter. If she does help them set up goals, you can always "check in" with them to see how they are doing with them. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks K9, glad you liked it. Anything that is hands on and visual for kids I find is always great. Thanks so much for your comments.

      I agree Mary615! We need to guide our kids to make good decisions and develop their skills for their future. Thanks!

      Wonderful Moon Daisy! I'm so glad that you are going to bookmark it for the future. Thanks for stopping by.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      I think that teachers and graphic organizers go hand in hand randomcreative! Thanks for reading.

      Hope it works out well for you and Matthew Leah! Happy New Year to you and your family!

      Yes, writing on the bathroom mirror with Mom's supervision, NOT on my son's own!

      Huntgoddess the markers are VERY cool! I agree with you that the goal should be one that the child should want to work on. If we are not wanting to make that change then we will not work toward improving it. Whether they are short term or long term goals are not as important to me as having something to work on. I see so many children and young adults who have no direction in life. I think that this is n imp0rtant skill that all children should learn before they become adults. Of course in a simple way for them to be able to achieve the goal and feel that success. Thanks so much for adding your great comments.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      9 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Great ideas for helping kids learn this important skill early on. Too late for me, as my kids are already adults, and my geographically nearest grandkids are practically on their own--one in high school; the other already 18. The younger grandkids live an hour away, but I'm definitely sending a link to this hub to my daugher so she can use it with them.

      Voted up, awesome and useful.

    • pmccray profile image


      9 years ago from Utah

      Awesome read. It is vitally important that parents guide their children to achieve their goals whatever they maybe and I feel this visualization technique is very unique. Thank you for sharing, voted up, marked interesting

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      9 years ago from England

      Hi, this is great! visualisation is a great way to train your brain and your childrens without it being too much for them, It works on the subconscious mind as well as the conscious, and is so much fun too!

    • Moon Daisy profile image

      Moon Daisy 

      9 years ago from London

      Great hub! I'm sure this will come in handy, I am bookmarking it for future reference. Voted up and awesome!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Aunt Danette. We learn from things that were modeled for us and those that were not. Although Mom started this kind of stuff when we were much older, I sure could have used it earlier in life. Thanks for your comments and good luck with your goals.

      It doesn't have to be complicated for children, just easy, simple, attainable goals. Hope your daughter likes the mirror writing workingmomwm!

      Writing on the mirror is fun for kids of all ages Simone! I use it at school on the windows in my classroom too! It's great for all kinds of reasons including goal reminders. Thanks for your comments.

      Goal setting should definitely be fun and not stressful Jyoti Kothari. It should be about getting excited about how you are going to improve your life. Thanks so much for reading.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      9 years ago from Florida

      Excellent Hub! I think it is very important to help children not only write down their goals, but we have to help them achieve them.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      9 years ago from Northern, California

      AWESOME! I like the fun mirror marker idea and your children's activity page is a really handy and printable tool! This article should help anyone who is trying to dial-in and set goals with children for 2012!



    • Huntgoddess profile image


      9 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      Thanks for this Hub. I love the special mirror crayons. So glad those exist!

      I would like to say, though --- I think it's important to be sure the kids really WANT to have that goal --- or any goal at all. Maybe some kids might not really like the idea of goal-setting. So we should not force it on them.

      I think it's okay to not have a particular long-term goal. Many of us have enough difficulty achieving short-term goals --- like getting a meal to eat, or clothes to wear. Just surviving.

      Some of us call our long-term goals "dreams" --- because they are unlikely to ever materialize.

      Very nicely done.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      I agree with Aunt Danette that it is great you are teaching them so young-as well as giving them a positive role model. Yay! for having permission to write on the bathroom mirror! LOL Rated up and across.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      9 years ago from Western New York

      I love this hub! Excellent advice and I love the kid's action plan. I may have to use this with Matthew to help him with a few of his goals this year!

    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 

      9 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      I agree with Simone that it's great how you adapted adult methods for children. The teacher in me would be pulling out graphic organizers, too!

    • JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

      Jyoti Kothari 

      9 years ago from Jaipur

      Fun! fun! goal setting idea is fun. GREAT hub! You have brought out goal setting from stress.

      Thanks. Rated up and funny!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      What fabulous advice! I love how you've adapted a bunch of adult-centered goal achievement methods for children. Also, I love the tip about writing goals out on the bathroom mirror. I totally want to do that this year!

    • workingmomwm profile image

      Mishael Austin Witty 

      9 years ago from Kentucky, USA

      Hi. Very good tips here. I couldn't agree more that you should start teaching goal setting to children from a very early age. And I absolutely LOVE the writing on the mirror idea! I might have to start that with my little girl. :-)

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      It's great that you are working with the kids now on this. As you may or may not have read in my Goals hub we didn't grow up with parents who talked to us about this. For a number of years, I've taped inspirational and motivational sayings to my bathroom mirror. I periodically change them out when I see another one I like. Wish I had someone in the house who is as goal oriented as I am but, oh well. Voted up.


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