Kids are naturally goal-oriented. When they see or discover something they want, they’ll often do all that they can to get it.
Whether it’s reaching for a distant cookie jar to filch a secret snack, pining away for a specific toy, or wishing that they could read to themselves, kids have an inherent knack for wanting and doggedly pursuing things.
However, their early goal-setting skills are impulse-driven and ill-defined. One large part of teaching kids how to establish and achieve goals is instructing them to hone their focus. Surprisingly, when goal-setting lessons are effective, increased focus is also one of the many benefits that children enjoy.
Following are seven helpful tips for teaching your kids how to aim high and achieve what they seek.
1. Make Goal-Setting a Group Activity
With kids, the best way to lead is by example. More often than not, kids are already picking up on the behavioral and social cues of the adults around them. Thus, when you want to teach your kids the importance of goal-setting and actionable efforts to achieve goals, you have to engage in these things yourself.
When holding discussions about goals, talk about the goal-setting strategies that you use in your own life. Share some of the goals that you’ve recently set as well as goals that you’ve already accomplished.
There are age-appropriate ways to structure these conversations at every stage of development. You can refine your discussions and subject matter to suit your growing child’s current cognition and comprehension abilities.
For instance, for very small children, you might talk about your efforts to promote better oral health by brushing and flossing every day, limiting your sugar, and going to the dentist at least once each year.
For teens, you can talk about the trials and lessons in saving for your first car. When discussing goals with school-age children, consider talking about your own experiences in learning and the specific accomplishments you wanted to make.
However, keep in mind that leading by example is about far more than verbally detailing your own goal-setting experiences.
The worst thing that you can do when leading by example is indulging in wishful thinking and never taking actionable efforts at all. If you’ve always wanted to write a book, set aside “goal time” each night and complete a single page or chapter.
“Goal time” can be a family affair. Kids who want to design comic strips can break out their drawing paper and pens and pro-athlete hopefuls can lace up their tennis shoes and hit the court.
No matter how ambitious your child’s aspirations may be, always remind them that anything is possible with enough effort.
2. Teach Your Kids the Importance of Teamwork
Not every goal can be achieved by a single person working alone. Teamwork and its importance are critical things to teach your kids.
Not only will this make it easier for kids to actively pursue and accomplish many of their goals, but it will also prepare them for a variety of real-world challenges. When kids go to school they’ll find that many of their most important assignments are group projects.
When they grow up and go to work, goal-setting abilities and measurable success will often be determined by how well they work with others.
Another benefit of sharing the importance of teamwork in goal-setting is letting kids know that they don’t have to do everything on their own.
For younger kids, share colorful examples of how hopeless situations can have seemingly miraculous outcomes when multiple people put their heads together. Watching movies such as “Toy Story” (rent on DIRECTV STREAM) with your little one is an excellent way to press this point home.
This movie teaches kids the power of overcoming differences, making new friends, and pulling together when there are challenges to overcome.
3. Encourage Your Kids to Start Small
Moving from impulse-driven and ill-defined goal-setting into conscious, strategic goal-setting can be incredibly exciting for children. The very concept of deciding to want things, planning to get them, and actually getting them can make young children feel empowered and ultimately limitless.
When goal-setting, young children can look at others confidently in the eye and declare that they want to be the next U.S. president, an astronaut, a helicopter pilot, or a princess. To a young mind and for a person who has yet to experience the real-world trials of failure and rejection, nothing seems impossible.
These are amazing characteristics. In an ideal world, every person would retain them forever.
However, for the sake of having your little one establish goals, experience the process of working towards them, and then achieve them, encourage your child to set at least one small and entirely reasonable goal.
This might be saving half of their allowance for a month, learning how to skateboard, or learning how to ride their bike with training wheels.
Setting and establishing modest goals builds the confidence that’s necessary for achieving larger ones.
The first, small goal that you and your child set together will also give you the opportunity to define the measurable steps that targeted achievements invariably require
4. Use a Vision Board to Define and Hone Your Child’s Goals
Many kids are visual learners. Not only do high-quality visuals make it easier for them to understand complex concepts, but they also make it easier for them to focus and tune in.
Creating a vision board is a great way to accomplish this. With a vision board, kids can write their goals down, establish the steps that they’ll take to reach them, and map out their progress.
Vision boards can even include spaces for revising goals, celebrating benchmarks, and discussing strategies that do and do not work.
5. Discuss the Lessons in Failing
Goal-setting exercises are also a chance to show the benefits of failing. Just as goal-setting helps kids increase their focus, it also builds confidence.
Confident children aren’t afraid of failure. In fact, confident children recognize the value of failing and are more dauntless and determined for it.
Tell your kids that it’s okay to not achieve every goal, and then be sure to explain why. When kids fail to accomplish their goals, they learn that:
- Some of their goals aren’t realistic
- They were pursuing specific goals with the wrong motivations
- Goals can be outgrown
- Their interests lie in other areas
Throughout life, goal-setting is an exercise in self-exploration. The only way for kids to learn about themselves is to try new things, discover what they do and do not like, and establish a heightened sense of their own inherent values and beliefs.
There are other positives in failing. Failure brings wisdom, builds strength, and teaches endurance.
Letting your kids establish challenging goals and strive for them will teach them to persevere. Allowing them to make mistakes and then encouraging them to try again builds character.
More importantly, teaching kids to take a positive approach to failure enables them to maintain a growth-oriented mindset.
6. Talk About “Out-of-the-Box” Thinking by Using Cooking Projects
Baking is an excellent way to show kids how the same mentality, the same actions, and the same level of effort will always produce the same results.
For example, if you bake a cake with your child and it comes out flat, flavorless, and unappealing, you’ll get the same disastrous cake again if you use the exact same ingredients and baking techniques.
Cooking shows kids that making minor adjustments in what they do will produce noticeable changes in what they get. Changing baking temperatures, using less salt, or even simply sifting flour can have a marked impact on what comes out of the oven.
When cooking with your child as part of your goal-setting activities and discussions, comment on how thinking in different ways or adding “new ingredients” to their efforts can turn unpleasant outcomes into far better results. In this way, cooking can teach kids important strategies in problem-solving.
7. Use Acknowledgements and Rewards to Incite Motivation
Nothing is as effective for inspiring motivation in a child as positive affirmation. Kids love doing good work and being noticed for it. If you have room on your vision board, leave space for gold stars and other rewards.
When your kids get the hang of setting measurable objectives that clearly define the paths to their goals, establish checkpoints and then use these as opportunities to distribute accolades and rewards.
Being reminded that their efforts are working will help kids continue plugging forward even when the work is hard.
Lessons in goal-setting build a solid foundation for success. Although kids are naturally inclined to both want and pursue things, teaching them how to structure their aspirations and then order their steps to reach them is important.
As goal-setting becomes an increasingly conscious and strategic activity, your child will become more focused, confident, and self-inspired.