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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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